Weekend Vibes

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 80: The One on Free Range Parenting.

By: Jen Shoop

My Latest Snag: Gingham Crib Bedding.

I absolutely love gingham in a nursery.  One of the hardest parts of leaving our Chicago home was bidding adieu to mini’s gingham-wallpapered nursery, which I’d spent months planning and designing.  I recently bought blackout curtains in a pink gingham check that have a) restored to me a bit of our former Chicago home, and b) afforded us an extra TWO HOURS OF SLEEP EVERY NIGHT HALLELUJAH!  They totally complete her nursery, too.  I love them.  I thought I’d double down on the gingham by adding some coordinating pink gingham crib bedding for an ultra-affordable $15!  Yay!  More gingham nursery bliss seen in the pics below, including one snap from that dream nursery I wrote about a week ago.

The Fashion Magpie Gingham Nursery 2

The Fashion Magpie Gingham Nursery 2

The Fashion Magpie Gingham Nursery 2

You’re Sooooo Popular: The Glen Plaid Blazer.

The most popular items on Le Blog this week:

+HELLO FALL.  This $50 glen plaid blazer is an absolute MUST.  (More glen plaid.)

+The bucket bag that never goes out of style.

+Victoriana blouse FTW.

+The classic rollneck sweater you can’t live without.

+Not too late in the season to order this floral skirt.  Pair with a jean jacket and head into fall.

+The chicest storage bin on the market.

+Affordable cashmere.

+One of my two favorite body lotions.  The other is by the same brand but in the Hesperides (grapefruit) scent.

#Turbothot: Free Range Parenting.

Take a minute to read through this controversial post on Cup of Jo, which launched hundreds of comments and spurred a long conversation with Mr. Magpie.  Before I share my own perspective, I’d like to add a couple of bizarrely-timed happenings I observed over the days following my reading of the article:

+At a playground, Mr. Magpie and I observed a mother attentively watching her 18-month-old son climbing all over the jungle gym on his own.  She was not on her phone; she was not distracted.  She was sporadically encouraging her son, but she was not “spotting” him or shadowing him in any way–though the playground stated that it was designed for five-year-old-and-over children.

+At another playground, I observed two parents within a foot of their two-year-old son, hands outstretched to catch him at the first sign of a falter or trip.  They were highly engaged, steering him away from parts of the playground that might be too dangerous for him, setting clear boundaries, and were quick to attend to his tears when he became frustrated.

+On a call with my mother, unprompted: “My mother didn’t permit me to walk to school until I was thirteen.”

What are your thoughts on “free-range parenting,” as Cup of Jo dubs it?  Would you permit your seven year old to walk around the corner to the convenience store?  Your ten year old to walk to school on her own?  Your five year old to play out on the front stoop unsupervised?

My instinct was no to all of these prompts.  I am too much a worrywart and can picture myself sitting inside, running through a long list of all of the horrible things that might be taking place.  In general, I fall into the “better safe than sorry” category.  But the article also created a space for me to reflect on just how far I was comfortable letting mini wander without my hovering.  No, I can’t imagine letting mini leave my sight at the age of five or seven or even ten, at least not in New York.  (Maybe when she’s thirteen, per my grandmother’s rule.) But after observing that mom at the playground watching her son from afar, and then, days later, that other couple hovering around their son, I had an occasion to think about where I want to fall on the supervision spectrum: close enough to intervene when necessary but far enough away to give her the impression of independence.

You know what?  I thought.  I could probably give her a bit of a longer leash.  And so I have been forcing myself to stand and observe at a modest distance — to great success, I think.  I watch from ten feet as mini explores the playground, splashes through puddles, decides for herself where she wants to go and at what pace.  She now turns to me and holds out her hand when she needs help climbing a stair or wants me to accompany her on the jungle gym, or just wants to tell me something.

It’s occasionally astonishing how much I learn from other parents when I am receptive to it — “Oh, I see.  That’s how you go through a door with a stroller” and “Oh, that mom has taught her toddler how to scoot…maybe I can, too.”  Thanks to those two parents, I’ve now evolved my own approach and become a lot more intentional about it.

What are your thoughts?

#Shopaholic: The Must-Have Toddler Board Book.

+Apparently every kid in America is obsessed with this board book.  (Read the reviews!)

+I feel like my nephews would D.I.E. over these dumptruck jammies!  Also, boy moms: THIS NAVY SWEATER!  $20?!  So adorable.  AND — Native Shoes for 40% OFF!!!

+This sweater in the lilac!!!!

+Incredible price on very of-the-moment bow-topped mules.

+Have heard good things about this book on Bunny Mellon.

+These deeply discounted Charlotte Olympia sandals are TO DIE!

+An incredible price on an on-trend dress suitable for most any gathering — girls’ night! BBQ! date night!

+Love this classic tweed blazer.

+Speaking of gingham — these drawer pulls would be a cute way to tie a dresser into a room’s theme!

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

6 thoughts on “Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 80: The One on Free Range Parenting.

  1. “Close enough to intervene when necessary but far enough away to give her the impression of independence” – that’s how I’ve approached watching the baby. If we’re in a safe (or safe enough) space, then I give her her freedom – I’m close enough to help if she wants it, and I try not to hover too much, even if she does things that make me want to cringe and bring her to safety. (Like climbing on top of our small and not-too-stable ottoman today and laughing merrily while doing a quickstep jig.) But, I’ve found if I intervene too much, she in turn becomes clingier and less willing to venture on her own, so I try to take a step back and be an attentive observer. I was constantly hovered over as a child and I hated it, and I suppose that in part was a contributing factor to why I get soooo annoyed if I’m being constantly checked in on. Unlike another commenter here, I was not strongly encouraged to be independent by my parents (there are cultural aspects there too, though), yet nevertheless I was, and happily went clear across the country for college and I would have happily stayed there were it not for my husband’s job bringing us back West.

    My husband tells stories of his childhood where, from the age of 6 upwards, when they were out of school, he and his friends would hop on their bikes in the morning and not return ’til dinner, and they never had to check in but were free to do what they wanted as long as they didn’t get in trouble. (Then again, he grew up in a small quiet town in Maine.)

    Some of it does come down to where you live, I think, as well as your temperament/personality and your child’s. And I haven’t yet figured out where I’ll draw the line as the baby gets older – using other parenting examples to figure out where you stand is immensely helpful, though.

    And thanks for the book rec – adding it to the Amazon shopping cart!

    1. Hi Jen! Sounds like we’re on the same page. It’s actually hard for me to sit back and let her explore — I so want to be there when she falls, to prattle alongside her, etc. But it’s so, so good for her; I can see her making decisions on her own and she is electric with opportunity. Mini does this thing where she swings her arms back and forth exaggeratedly when she’s happy — and I see her doing a LOT of that these days 🙂

      But it is SO trying as a parent!

      I agree with you that it has to do with your temperament and location, too. One interesting note in the Cup of Jo comments was that one parent wrote in to say that she would easily give her one daughter a ton of freedom/autonomy because she was highly aware, alert, and responsible. Her other daughter was far more aloof, and she found she needed to be more hands-on with her. An interesting thought!


  2. Not a parent, but I think it’s all so interesting to read and observe, particularly when I think back to my own childhood. I didn’t live somewhere where walking anywhere was really an option, but instead grew up on a few semi-rural/suburban acres. Once I was confident and educated enough, I was free to go take care of and play with my horse, ride my bike all over, and generally play in the dirt. By ten or so, I was often in the barn alone and my responsibilities grew from there. Obviously city life is much different and my parents had a somewhat built in buffer from the outside world, but I think it did so much for my independence. Neither my brother nor I hesitated to leave for college 1200+ miles away (in fact, neither of us looked at a school closer than 700 miles!) and I know my parents often get comments from friends about how independent both of us are.

    I think your statement, “close enough to intervene when necessary but far enough away to give her the impression of independence” is perfect and how my parents treated our entire adolescence (and even to this day in some ways). They were happy to let us spread our wings and feel like we were free to make our own decisions (and mistakes!), but there to pick us up when we fell. Knowing we had a safety net below us encouraged us to make bigger leaps and be brave – a good life trait to have.

    (Not to sound like we are/were perfect children: we definitely made our mistakes and my college age brother still has to tell my mother to “land the chopper” when she gets to be a little much – something she blames on raising a boy vs girl. I call her to analyze everything down to what brand of hairspray to buy; he calls on a Friday to tell her he’s moving apartments the next day.)

    1. That sounds like such an idyllic childhood — and also like your parents were absolutely wonderful. I do think you are right that some of it stems from location, too. But you remind me that there are ways to grant mini autonomy even here in our cramped apartment!


  3. This is such an interesting topic. I read that CoJ post with gusto, and was so intrigued by the comments section as well. I love musing on this topic — right now, I can’t imagine letting my eight- & nine-year-old stepkids walk around our city on their own, or even really leave them home alone (together or separately), even just for a short period of time. That said, I do enjoy letting them loose in the park near our house and periodically checking in on them from my perch (with a book) on a nearby bench. It’s important to give an age-appropriate measure of independence without being too helicopter-y, in my opinion, at least. I think it’s so wise of you to notice other parents’ approaches and to let that inform how you engage with mini. And I think your grandmother’s rule is spot-on.

    1. Yes — absolutely incredible how much I learn from watching other parents and then filtering through my own understanding of mini. That boy, for example, was a lot sturdier on his feet than mini is, so I also had to weigh that observation into my considerations. But anyway, yes — we are on the same page.


Previous Article

Next Article