On the Today show recently they were discussing Free Range Kids so I looked up the website, mainly because the discussion was about whether it was poor parenting to let your kids walk to the park, several blocks away, alone. If so, I think my parents and others were beyond neglegent when I was growing up. AND I just want to say THANK YOU! As a kid, I roamed just about anywhere I wanted and all was well just so I was home by dark which in the summer was pretty late. I and many of my contemporaies survived just fine. I have wondered about the hovering parent model for a long time. Now I am wondering about the hovering kid of older parents model.
Free Range Kids is a site that according to its mission statement believes self reliant kids need to be educated and prepared to handle the kind of freedom most of us knew growing up.
“Fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.” Lenore Skenazy
In our world today Free Range Kids is a dangerous concept to many. Likewise Free Range Grown Ups especially those of us known as Senior Citizens presents challenges to many.
Recently while Terry and I were in Florida enjoying Spring Break with some of our grandkids, my daughter in Kentucky called to tell me that my brother Tom and his less than reliable 1989 van were missing from our home and had been everytime she had checked since 4 PM…it was now 6:30 PM. She had gone into our house, let the dogs out to take care of their business, but found no indication of where Tom might have gone.
Why on earth would she or I be concerned about a 65 year old man, who had gone ‘who knows where’? Before my brother’s stroke in 2009, which involved a major bleed near his thalmus, he was quite independent. In fact, he got along fine on the streets of Tulsa, our mother lived with him, and he basically took care of her plus working a full time cabinet building job. Admittedly, he was a bit old fashioned, refused to get a cell phone, but he did manage the basic ‘check email’ and ‘internet search’ on a computer.
Following a month in the hospital and the rehab unit, Tom came to live with us. The discharge conferences presented us with the gloomiest of prognosis. He needed 24/7 care. He was delusional…evidently, he had stood at the window of the rehab unit, as the therapist tried to explain to him that he was in the hospital when he turned to her and stated emphatically, “You can try to convince me of that, but I know I am on a train and you are a spy.” He was also angry and had even attacked, hands around the throat, a male attendent who simply was trying to get him into a wheelchair. The social workers suggested that I not allow him to sit behind me on the way home. Needless to say, Terry and I were both a little rattled by all this, but we bundled him home with us anyway. Other than his minor confusion and memory lapses we had no problems getting him home and settling him in.
Over the next several months he gradually improved. In fact in July 2010 we took a short weekend trip to St. Louis, MO to meet our son Scott, his wife Martha and our three grandkids. Tom stayed home and took care of himself (multiple prepared meals in refrigerator) and our dog Mitzi. I called him frequently but he did well. THEN Terry was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout his treatment, Tom continued to improve, to step up and take on more responsibility. I still rushed home on the weekends to fix multiple meals before we headed back for more radiation and chemo. Did we worry about Tom? Well, I did. Terry was way too sick. I called frequently and had my daughter go by the house as often as she could, but you know what? other than dirty dishes, dirty countertops, and scattered debris, Tom managed, even doing his own laundry.
So since that time we have tried to help Tom become more independent, while realizing that there were limits to how that would work. He has memory issues, both long term and short term. He carries our cell phone numbers in his wallet and recently obtained a Kentucky Drivers License. BUT he does not seem to be able to master a cell phone and now refuses to carry one.
SO in April, when our daughter called, I admit it I went into panic mode. I called the police, the sheriff’s office, the State Police, the hospital….thankfully there were no reports of accidents, traffic stops, injuries with his name attached. Bran and her husband set out to follow the route we thought he might travel if he headed into town to eat or go to the bank.
Just before I was ready to put out a SILVER ALERT–akin to an AMBER ALERT at the other end of the age scale, Bran called and told me they had spotted Tom’s van on a flat bed truck headed toward our house and they were hot on its trail. WHEW! I was so relieved I cried. . .all the while wanting to wring his neck for not letting anyone know where he was headed and for NOT having a CELL phone. I calmed before I talked to him. Know what? He had handled things with the help of the Burger King staff just fine. I mean he is 65 years old.
Kids and Older Adults, especially those of us with diminishing capacities, hearing, vision, cognitive function, relfexes..you get the picture..the vast majority of us, present similar challenges to those trying to keep us safe. As kids as we got older we received more freedom until we hit the “Silver Alert” years, then as age creeps up the watchful eyes of our kids not our parents are on us. Just as we yanked our son’s car keys from him after a reckless driving ticket when he was 16, so it is that our kids are poised to yank ours if we begin driving recklessly.
We realized that Tom’s major problem the night of the incident was his vehicle not reckless behavior on his part, so he recently purchased a car to use around here that even has roadside assistance. He is so proud and we feel so much better knowing he drives a reliable vehicle, who cares if he drives like a little old lady…he is extra cautious..so much the better.
SO after much consideration of what it takes to keep self reliance alive during our Senior years, I turned Ms. Skenazy’s statement toward the concept of Free Range Grown Ups:
“Fighting the belief that our older adults are in constant danger from con-artists, televangelists, falling, heart attacks, strokes, frustration with electronic equipment, dementia, wasting their children’s inheritance on frivolity, getting lost, and/or the perils of choking on a grape, organic or non-organic grape.” CK paraphrase from Free Range Kids Website.
LIFE IS MEANT TO BE LIVED! According to scripture….ABUNDANTLY! I plan to fight tooth and nail to do just that just as long as I can and despite my recent lapse with my brother to honor others’ right to that as well. I may need long term assisted care someday, but until I do I plan to be One Old Free Range Hen!