The great outdoors

As a kid, there was always dirt under my fingernails and I had a perpetual tan from always being outdoors. That’s because I was lost in the woods and raised by wolves during my formative years.

Growing up, I had the luxury of running around with my friends, exploring my surroundings and gaining valuable like skills, like fighting for meat. It’s a game we’d play.

The point I’m getting to is that I had the freedom as a child to go unsupervised on my own adventures, climb trees, catch frogs, scrape my knees, take risks and learn the consequent lessons from them. I was what some nowadays call a “free-range kid.”

“We’ve done it for cattle and for chickens – it’s time we unleashed this generation of kids.” – Carl HonorĂ©

Granted, my mother always kept me on her radar. She would always ask where I was going, what I’d be doing and who with. Although my adventures would always lead me a little off-course, she trusted my friends and I to have the intelligence and capacity to come home safely.

I was a child who would walk to school, take bike rides to Henderson Lake and journey into the river valley to hunt rattlesnakes. This independence built my confidence and creativity and exposed me to a world outside of my backyard. It made me a responsible and smart child, who knew he had to come home at dinner time.

Growing up, my environment wasn’t overly structured or scheduled. I didn’t have music lessons or sporting lessons forced down my throat (I wasn’t interested anyway). I was given chores to do, did my homework and the rest of the time was mine. I pursued my interests.

“It’s estimated American children lost 12 hours of free time a week between the late 1970s and 1997. In Britain (and no doubt Canada), the average distance kids are allowed to stray unaccompanied from home decreased almost 90 per cent since the 1970s. Even then, they are umbilically leashed by cellphone.” – Macleans

My mother dearly looked after us kids. But she wasn’t a hyperparent with an irrational fear that something bad would happen if we were let into the outside world. There weren’t any mobile phones to track us at all times, just her howling voice when I strayed too far.

Of course, I would get myself into trouble as well, stealing apples off trees or getting my head stuck in tree branches while playing MacGyver. It’s part of being a kid. And I didn’t die or get abducted.

To make a long story short, I grew up in Lethbridge and consider it a safe city where everyone knows everyone. I think this city provides a lot of opportunity for children to just be children. It allows parents to relax and give their kids some freedom to walk alone to school, go tobogganing in the Sugar Bowl or throw rocks at wasp nests.

If you think you might be a little over-protective, or are just curious, I suggest you check out some books on free-range children. Or just remember what your childhood was like!