Free the Children

I took the kids into town today for Bob’s swim lessons with Esther, the swim whisperer.  Bob is in salamander, and loves swimming with flippers on.   His class starts when AquaFit ends, so I get to see my school teachers and my friends mothers naked weekly.  One of those “things” about small town living I find surreal… yet endearing.

We stopped in at the Fine Fettle after swimming to pick up some Panda Licorice and tea (rooibus).  A woman and her young son (5-7 years I’m guessing) passed us on the sidewalk.  The child broke into a run, as children do.  Safely, on the sidewalk.  The mother panics and shrieks: “Stop!  Stop running!  You might hurt yourself!”

Oh, honey.
Say that out loud to yourself, slower.
Say it again.

On the way home from town, we paused on the road by an Old Order neighbour’s farm.  His 7 year old son was working his field, leading a team of 5 horses.  With no adult in sight, not that he needs one, I’ve watched this kid learn to drive since he was Bob’s age.   I’m proud to know that kid.

What has happened to modern parenting?

If, like me, you would like to shake the woman sucking the joy and life skills out of her child; or perhaps if you are that parent, but would prefer not to be; I highly recommend checking out this book:
Free Range Kids by L. Skenazy.

In a similar vein, I just finished reading:
NurtureShock by P. Bronson and Ashley Merryman and it was also a very worthwhile read.

Things are really picking up speed here.  I’ve been enjoying working with the children using a Brilliant Minds Montessori Math Kit, starting seeds with them, fixing up the pig pen.  They love having jobs.  We’ll be bringing piglets home any day now, I am very excited.  I’ve been doing a spot of work for the local Penetangore Watershed Committee (go check out the display in the library!)  Tomorrow over 1 tonne of food will arrive to my house to be sorted and reconciled for our buying club.  (Thank you in advance, Lisa!)  We’ve got our summer car back on the road, are about to tackle getting a building permit for our new out building, and are in the midst of a spring clean.

Pictures of: Bob & Mags in their new Lucha masks; Bob taking a good spill off the dirt pile (finally riding his bike outside; he rode it all winter long inside our house); 2 pictures from a lovely walk in Inverhuron; happy sheep at Philosopher’s Wool; my beautiful boy.


Ps. You have to fall down to learn how to get back up.  Let’s not rob our children of this lesson.


  1. 6512 and growing · April 14, 2011

    My daughter got accidentally smacked in the nose by a goat’s horns the other day. She shrieked for ten minutes and then climbed out of my arms and wanted to pet the goat again.
    Talk about falling down and getting back up.

    We’re thinking of getting a couple turkeys to raise for meat. I want to ask you a million questions about turkeys but maybe I should just ask if you have any books/websites you’d recommend?

  2. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    No, I know of no good book about turkeys. Feel free to email any questions! We really loved them. I mean, really really. They are such nice, calm, curious birds. I am really looking forward to having them again.

    Ow! Goat horns hurt! Atta girl. I was so pleased to find Bob smiling when he fell and rolled down the dirt mound, and landed under his bike. :)

  3. eli · April 14, 2011

    Thank you for being a voice of reason in this over-structured world. I saw a similar situation a few months ago. We live in a high rise in NYC, and a mother screamed “NOOO !” at her daughter in the elevator. I was day dreaming and completely startled. “NOOO !” she said again. “DON’T TOUCH THAT ! IT’S DIRTY ! YOU COULD GET SICK !”

    The mother was referring to the fresh snow that had packed around the top of her toddler daughter’s winter boots. All the child wanted to do was touch the snow, and watch it melt in her hand. My heart broke.

    This blog is an inspiration to my partner and I. We are due in October, and couldn’t be more excited about joining the parenting adventure.

  4. Katie · April 14, 2011

    I always find your stories and photos so endearing. Not cutesy endearing, but real-life endearing. You set a good example.

  5. Allie · April 14, 2011

    We have these friends that I find hard to hang out with sometimes because the “stop-running-don’t-do-that” is constant at the PLAYground of all places. Recently a woman told me I shouldn’t be letting Samson walk at the beach with the dogs running around. At our playgroup kids are constantly being told not to touch each other or play with each other.

    Seriously–what is up with people?!

  6. Nicole · April 14, 2011

    I loved NutureShock. It was enlightening.

    Lex has that same bike! He loves it. He’s taken a few tumbles, but he always gets back up. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for.

    Where did you get the Lucha masks? They’re cute.

  7. Alex · April 14, 2011

    Ever since Addie was little and could walk around herself I’ve always told her to “think it through” when she was running about and being silly. If she got hurt, I comfort her and then tell her “what did you think would happen” hahaha. Ever the sympathetic parent me haha!

  8. Charley · April 14, 2011

    Those kind of small town things are what I’m already missing so much about being back in the city, ugh my heart aches but needs must. I have zero self control when it comes Panda Liquorice, especially the liquorice comfits, the best.

    I’ve thought about this a lot actually, my closest friend who has children already is such an amazingly laid back, un-hysterical mother she’s a total inspiration. The other night whilst in early labour with her second she came to our friends birthday party and danced until 1am then went home and had her baby!! How? I come from a family of very highly strung, anxious women and I’m very worried about passing that onto future offspring. Really genuinely concerned because I have a lot of anxiety stemming from how I was raised, enough to be worrying about this kind of thing already haha.

    Although it has to be said neurotic temperaments aside, the women in my family are also total tomboys so any kind of outside wildness was encouraged, I used to spend literally days alone in the fields with cows, the river, wandering free. I hope my kids get that, I hope I’m able to let them.

    Have you read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv?

  9. Sarah · April 14, 2011

    Wow. When society collectively left the farm they left a lot of things behind.

  10. Brenda · April 14, 2011

    Great story about the little 7 year old Amish boy and how he can work just like any boy triple his age. I watched a documentary on PBS called ‘The Amish’ and found myself wishing I could live like they do. Everyone seems so happy and the children really knew how to have fun at everything they do – minus the electronics and all that technology crap that the world keeps pushing down their throats!

  11. Daniel · April 14, 2011

    It’s one thing to need to be the adult and protect kids from obvious harm (eg. don’t play in traffic or eat wild mushrooms), but people are nuts. They’re raising a generation of kids who can’t interact with other human beings or the world around them. Scary.

  12. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Daniel – the pictures taken in the trees, we were out hunting mushrooms. But we only eat the ones the head hunter says are safe. Hehe.

    Yes, it is VERY scary.

    Brenda – there are a lot of ins and outs with the Amish, lots more generators, diesel and loopholes. I had a lot more “Amish Envy” when we first moved in here than I do now. I am VERY happy for my flush toilet and schooling past grade 8. Though I heavily mock my degree, I realize regularly how blessed I am to have it, and knowledge accrued living “off the farm”. What I love about them most (other than no Nintendo or cell phones) is the “gelassenheit” (I know I am spelling that wrong) but it means “let go and let god” essentially. Lovely. That and their INCREDIBLE community.

    Charley – No I haven’t, but it’s on my list! I think you’ll be just fine when the time comes.

    Alex – “Think it through” – I’m stealing that!

  13. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Eli – that is CRAZY TALK! Crazy! I overheard a grandmother once hollering at her 3 year old at a grassy park “PUT YOUR SHOES ON! Your feet will get DIRTY!” Wow, that sounds… awful. Dirt and play, sheesh, good thing you were there, granny!

    Have fun birthing! I loved birth!

    Allie – the no touching thing weirds me RIGHT OUT. I was just talking about that to someone a couple of days ago, how afraid of eachother everyone is. Shit ain’t right.

    Nicole – I like to joke that kids are like Tupperware. It’s a great bike, I can’t believe how quickly he can corner on it. We got the masks in Kensington Market in Toronto, at a store called Courage My Love. They were out of kids sizes, but I had to get them anyway, they were cheap!

  14. Caitlin · April 14, 2011

    About the gym, I’m always astonished by the middle aged—>senior gals walking around naked like it’s nothing. Pack of hussies! I actually try to never sit on the benches because I inevitably wind up with a face full of bush or butt. I wish I was that confident/comfortable being naked. :(

  15. Daniel · April 14, 2011

    Heh, I guess I should have chosen my words more carefully with the wild mushrooms crack :). Obviously, you’re being as safe as possible about it.

    The “no touching” thing must seriously mess kids up. Talk about a way to ensure that they’re unable to relate to each other normally…

  16. Ro · April 14, 2011

    Ok, I’m going to defend the “overprotective” woman a bit. I have one of those kids who is drawn to danger (I’m not joking: until the age of 3 the child was almost totally devoid of fear), and who is fine running on the pavement one minute, then in the road the next minute (“OMG! A backhoe loader!” *brain shutdown*). So, I have to keep a very close eye on him. I hope he gets over this by the time he is 5 – 7 years old. I don’t want him to learn by getting hit by a car. ;)

    Having said that, I’m a pretty relaxed mother overall (according to British standards), and when Leo falls, I’m more likely to ask him if he is ok than to rush over to pick him up. I’m all for letting him learn from making mistakes, but I do sometimes wonder if he ever will.

    Back home in South Africa, parenting is very relaxed……….VERY relaxed. Children can ride in shopping trolleys without fear of retribution! I hope it stays this way.

  17. Lisatlantic · April 14, 2011

    A little off topic but the parenting bit reminded me… Did you ever have the issue that your bedsharing kids COULD NOT sleep w/out you next to them? I love bedsharing but I hate going to bed at 6pm! My girl wakes up if I’m not physically touching her, so I can barely even get up to pee in the night and she’s awake looking to nurse back to sleep.

  18. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Ro – If her 5-7 year old doesn’t know not to run in traffic, I’d have even bigger issues with her! Ha! 3 year olds have no idea, but this kid was just trotting down the street. Bob (4) will run ahead of me an entire street block to wait by the curb. I know not all kids may do that, but he understands that in a fight between him and a car, the car will win. Mags (almost 3) has really no idea, I stay close to her still.

    Lisa – Yes. Try sitting beside them, in bed. Just sitting up, holding hands, cuddled. A week later, sit at the foot of the bed. Then the floor.

    But how old is your little? Less than 2 and you’ll have to take smaller steps. But it will come. Just be consistent!

  19. Hayley · April 14, 2011

    I’ve been places where my kids have been running around, shoes off, getting dirty and I get looked at like I’m crazy while the other mothers have to convince their envious children that they don’t want to get dirty or have fun for whatever reason. It’s mind boggling. Dirt comes off, cuts heal, lessons get learned…. How’s your back piece coming Ashley?

  20. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Hayley, hey! Had a session on it last week actually. First one since last summer. Scott has drawn up skulls to cover my lower backpiece so we’ll start lining that soon I hope. I hope to be done by fall. :)

    Have you had any new tattoos?

  21. Lisatlantic · April 14, 2011

    She’s only 5 months, guess I’m jumping the gun a bit. I wear her for all her naps too, and she always wants to be held, so I think I’m in touch overload!

  22. Hayley · April 14, 2011

    That’s exciting! Can’t wait to see it! Matter of fact, I have a sock in progress on my right leg. Hoping it will be done by the end of fall! (it’s a pretty, colourful plethora of candy and cupcakes and icecream. It’s a fun piece!

  23. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Lisa – get time for yourself! But it’s totally natural for a 5 month old to be glued to you. :) Consider a BabyHawk or soft structured carrier now that she’s bigger. I highly recommend back-carry!

    Hayley – candy sounds like MUCH fun. :)

  24. Thomas Vree · April 14, 2011

    When I was 7, just before turning 8, I decided I wanted to go to Schiphol to look at the planes. I figured out the route on the map, and set out to ride from one end of Amsterdam to the other. My mom had packed me a lunch, I had my little stuffed monkey (I had a Calvin and Hobbesian relationship with him), the map, the phone numbers of some friends and family along the way and some money and off I went. Crazy construction along the way, streets all torn up, and got all discombobulated. Turned around and went home. Next week, set off again. This time I made it. Watched the planes for a while, turned around and went home.

    People are aghast when I tell them this. “Your parents let you ride your bicycle across a big city by yourself?!“


    What do you think builds a kids abilities and self esteem? That, or taking them to the mall to buy them a video game because they ate their supper without crying about being lucky enough to have something to eat?


  25. Sid · April 14, 2011

    Funny, I was just talking to a co-worker about exactly this issue. Before I had my daughter, I was stunned to hear crazy stories about schools in Ontario that wouldn’t let the kids play in the snow in the winter lest they get wet. It’s so comforting to read your blog and others ( and know that I’m not the only one who sees the insanity and wants to avoid it.

  26. cargillwitch · April 14, 2011

    I am a doula and have done a number of births with the local Amish and old order mennonites around the Grey-Bruce area. They are a real contradiction at times but what they get right ( as you’ve mentioned!) is community. They all pitch in to help each other, something even rural
    ” mainstream” folks seem to have grown detached from.

  27. Anne · April 14, 2011

    Ok for the longest time I sat silent and never sad anything about the overprotection, but now I just speak and ask WHY can’t he run? I sound sad when I ask, assuming he he ill. And parents get it- they admit they are being overprotective. Well some do. I on the other hand feel great. I have stopped keeping my agression in and some people actaully listen to me.
    I get some towns.. two over from yours.. so do pick your battles you might want one or two friends in the community :)

  28. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Anne, I sit silent. It generally doesn’t matter how sweetly, sadly or innocently I may ask things, people usually get their guard up that bit extra because they don’t like what I look like. I don’t usually engage, unless I know the parent, or they seem receptive.

    Cargillwitch – I didn’t realize there were doulas here. Well, I am sure glad to hear it! I have enjoyed many stories from my MWs about them, certainly gave me a very clear view of their genetic…. diversity. Or lack thereof!

    Sid – I have seen that blog! Many playgrounds have taken away half of their equip, fearing injuries. I remember the equipment I played on, long ripped out of the sand. That stuff… was AWESOME.

    Thomas – that is a fucking fantastic story. Loved it. Thank you for sharing that.

  29. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    (And Anne – your kids are SO cute! Holy blondeness!)

  30. L. · April 14, 2011

    Your kids are so cute in their little masks!

    I always find it absolutely ridiculous when I hear a parent telling their kid not to run, play, or whatever because they might hurt themselves or get dirty. When I was a kid, I used to play outside from morning until night, getting very dirty, falling, and getting so many cuts and scrapes. The only things my very laid-back mom told me were not to play in the street (duh, mom! :) ) and to let her know if I was leaving to go to a friend’s house. I did have a friend who had an overprotective mom who used to constantly remind him not to get dirty and to be careful when playing so he wouldn’t get hurt. Someone should have told her that dirt washes off, scraped knees heal, and all crying stops eventually. Kids don’t need that much protection. All they need is a little common sense and they’ll be ok.

  31. Amandette · April 14, 2011

    I admit to sometimes being a don’t-do-that-you-might-hurt-yourself mom, when it comes to my toddler exploring the world. I force myself to exercise parental restraint, so that we both can learn.
    What bothers me most however, is being at a friend or family members’ house and it being so obviously not “baby proof”. I just feel like I can’t relax in a house full of chemical cleaners, personal products and junk food. The sharing of junk food is what really puts a lump in my throat. It’s natural for a child to want what you’ve got, but why o why do you always have to have something not good for them, you or anyone (ex: sugary sugar-coated crap, MSG crackers, chicken cutlets etc etc)? I don’t want my children eating certain things… most things that other people eat, so there always runs the risk of insulting someone’s taste… especially when they THINK they know what is healthy eating.

  32. Amandette · April 14, 2011

    Also, Bob looks the spittin’ image of yourself!

  33. Steve Lucas · April 14, 2011

    When my son was 4yrs old I had an accident and became paralyzed, I sold my 1/4 section to my sons mother quite cheap 4 her horses and his motor bikes. :) When Austin was 6 he came to live with me and since I’m quadriplegic he is very responsible. He makes his lunches, sets alarms and wakes up on his own. He does many chores around the house to help me and it works well for us. He will turn 11 this year and all along the two biggest responsibilities of his are go to school and work hard and Be a kid and have fun. Your right we learn by mistakes and children need to learn like we all do, so some times it means falling down to do it.
    when he was a baby we barely baby proofed at all just very dangerous things, otherwise we taught him no and it was effective because we always watch him anyway. If you are part of the SG community I posted a big blog about me my name is sexysteve Happy parenting everyone we are off to martial arts ;)

  34. Steve Lucas · April 14, 2011

    Last year My older brother and I were talking about our kids, I mentioned Austin had asked me a difficult question. I said I had to give a direct honest answer to my son but my brother was appalled. He firmly believes kids should not be allowed to ask hard questions ex. Drugs, sex, porn or anything. I told my boy when very young I will never lie to him, if he wants an honest answer he knows to come to me. I may try and say you don’t want to know but if he insists I will always answer. Information is the most important thing we can arm our kids with some times. If they feel there ready for some I think it should be provided in as much or as little detail as they are comfortable with hearing. I’m afraid his daughters will eventually be some where and get there periods and be completely unprepared. My opinion am I wrong?

  35. Twwly · April 14, 2011

    Hey Steve, nice to meet you. I think you’re bang on, you have to fall down sometimes to learn. It’s just the way life works. I agree with you about being honest and using as much or as little detail as is appropriate for that child.

    I would sure hope that your brother covers the issue of menstruation with his girls sooner or later, my goodness girls seem to be getting their periods younger and younger these days! My kids have already asked about it – I use washable pads and a reusable keeper which they have seen in the wash, and have a VERY basic but honest grasp of that situation.

    We will see how things unfold when talking to them about drugs. It would be my ultimate hope that even more than me being able to talk to them about drugs and have them listen, that they would be feel comfortable ASKING me or telling me what their experiences or curiosities are. How I cultivate our relationship now and build trust with them as 2 & 4 year olds will hopefully have an impact. Time will tell and I can only hope!

  36. Natalie · April 14, 2011

    Your family is just beautiful. Gorgeous children!!

  37. oniana · April 14, 2011

    i’m a nanny in new york city and i work in a very multicultural neighborhood, i’ve had some interesting and enlightening conversations with parents (mothers actually) from Russia, Georgia, Mainland China, and Greece about why they yell at their children for running and playing. Usually it is because their mother didn’t let them run around and play. I have been chided by American parents for letting my charges run (on the sidewalk-in my sight) and climb fences and trees (with me spotting them!)

    I am trying to understand where the parents are coming from when they bug out about the children playing. Maybe they never got to play? Maybe it is a cultural disconnect? Many of the mothers will chide their daughters and not their sons. I have been able to share insight about my child-care style and the fact that it has yet to result in a maimed child, despite it’s having been employed for the last 10+ years in the field. The kids come home a little dirtier, maybe slightly bruised or scraped up, but braver and happier and excited about life. I think it is worth it.

    I grew up in a family of five kids with minimal supervision. We had our own little house with a loft near the barn, and hand pump on the well for water. We would bring food we prepared out into the woods and play all day the big kids watched the little kids. It was awesome.

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