Pulling Back The Reins, Tying Down The Leash




Daughter: You said that we could go explore!


Daughter: You said that we could trail blaze through the woods near the lodge as long as we could see the lodge!


Daughter: And I could still see the lodge from the horse farm down the valley! I kept looking back to make sure I could see the lodge while I was walking, and I could always see the lodge!


Daughter: AND hear the other girls sledding near the lodge!


Daughter: AND I had a whistle with me. You know, for an emergency!


Daughter: AND I was marking a trail in the snow with orange food-coloring so that I'd know how to get back.


Daughter: AND I had a buddy with me!

Mother: Did you have any water with you?

Daughter: No.

Mother: Did you have any food with you?

Daughter: Well...no.

Mother: What were you thinking of doing if you did get lost? Did you have a flint or lighter so that you could build a fire and stay warm? So you brought a buddy! You're the one with more meat on your bones. Your buddy would have eaten you by noontime! What were you thinking?! I said to not wander farther than where you could see the lodge! Why was every other child there able to understand that this instruction didn't include "from the top of the ridge a quarter mile away"! Why did no one else take "don't wander off" to mean "trudge through the snow and cold, burrow through sticker bushes and climb over downed trees, over the valley and through the woods"! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Daughter: But I was still able to see the lodge....



Mother: I was starting to panic! People were looking for you! This was not a Good Idea!

Father: I do think your instructions could have been more clear.


Father: Well...I do.

Mother: How more clear? I had given the same instructions the day before, watched her the entire time she was "trail blazing", and she stayed along the perimeter of the camp not going farther than a foot or two into the woods!

Father: Well...all I'm saying is that this kind of thing never happens at Adventure Guides.

Mother: Oh no. You guys just launch water balloons at the kids from slingshots the size of God's wishbone.

Father: That's different....

Mother: How is it different?

Father: At least we know where the kids are....

Mother: When their heads get knocked off?

Daughter: Are we done?

Mother and Father: No!

Father: I don't go for all this "free range" parenting thing. I mean, what's the benefit? What skills are these kids learning that they absolutely have to learn at 11 years old? Why do kids need to do anything without an adult around?

Mother: Anything? Didn't you ride your bike around the neighborhood with your friends when you were 11?

Father: Yes. Didn't you ride your bike around your neighborhood with your friends and then take off into the forest and chop wood with axes and light fires?

Mother: Well...yes. But we were cooking hot dogs.

Father: And why is lighting fires and cooking hot dogs something kids need to be doing without adult supervision?

Mother: I never said kids should be lighting fires and cooking hot dogs without adult supervision.

Daughter: Cool! You lit fires and cooked hot dogs without adult supervision?!

Father: Didn't you also tell me about climbing through some abandoned train tunnel called Frankenstein's Cave? Didn't you go for hikes through strip mines? Didn't your sister or your cousin or someone steal a horse?

Mother: The horse thing was much later....

Father: No. There is no reason for kids to be doing these things, going off on their own without an adult with them at all times.

Mother: Then clone me. Twice. In time for summer.


Daughter: So can I go trail blazing again?

Mother and Father: NO!

Daughter: DARN!

Mother: Not unless I'm with you.

Father: Hmmmmm.

Mother: Not unless I'm with you and close enough to grab your ponytail.

Daughter: Well can't I do ANYTHING on MY OWN? AnyMORE? EVER?

Mother and Father: No!

Mother: No more Free Range parenting for you anymore. Ever.

Daughter: What's Free Range Parenting?

Mother: It's a term thought up by some mom who allowed her 9 year old son to travel across New York City alone on the subway.

Daughter: Whoa! I'd like to do that!

Mother: No. Because, you see, I'm pretty convinced you'd end up in Quebec.

Daughter: Darn!

Mother: Yup. Darn!

Daughter: So what kind of parenting are you going to do?

Father: I'm writing a book called Veal Parenting.

Daughter: "Veal parenting"? What does that mean?

Mother: It means that Mommy and Daddy are your conjoined twins for the next few months....

Father: Years.

Mother: Years.



Daughter: Darn.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep....

Epilogue: Just went back to the camp (a friend lost her cell phone while there this weekend, so we went back to find it - we did!) and we traced the "trail blaze" trail to the horse farm. There actually was a yellow/green blazed trail marked on the trees (like my daughter had also told me there was), so I feel the tiniest bit better about her sensibilities. However...she still should have told me, an adult should have at least trailed on the "expedition" and, hello, it was 20 degrees outside.

The books in the right-hand sidebar are actually some pretty good resources for teaching kids survival skills. Tom Brown's Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children
is thorough, and The Boys' Book Of Survival (How To Survive Anything, Anywhere)
(why not girls, too, I ask?) has a great packing list for what to bring on any hike to be prepared for any emergency. Flare gun not included.


Caryn said...

Oh boy -- I can just imagine that feeling, but you did make me laugh. I wonder if this Veal Parenting will catch on?

Julie Pippert said...

I'm laughing but in that "oh so get it" with you kind of way.

Kath said...


Ethan says that at Cub Scout Camp, if one of the kids wanders off and gets lost, the Dads just hang around and wait and eventually he always shows up.

Maurice Reeves said...

Have you been listening in at my house because this sounds a lot like conversations Heather and I have had, except, I'm the one that wants to let the kids ride their bikes down to their friends' houses and Heather's the one who wants them followed by an armed escort, wearing lojacks, and covered in armor.

Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. I was riding intertubes off a waterfall and exploring abandoned buildings. Heather did the same thing, but she'll never admit it to the kids.

Amie Adams said...

I lover her spunk! She's going to be a huge success in her life. That bravery will be handy---LATER. Just no fun now, huh?

My sympathies.

Mother of the Buddy said...

Mother of Buddy: Where were you?
Buddy: Trail blazing, we asked and it was ok.
Mother of Buddy: You were lost – no one knew where you were.
Buddy: We weren't lost - we knew where we were.
Mother of Buddy: The adults didn't know where you were - we had 6 adults looking for you - didn't you hear us yelling?
Buddy: No
Mother of Buddy:
Buddy: We stayed together; she marked the trail and had a whistle. We weren't lost.
Mother of Buddy:
Buddy: You could have followed our trail.
Mother of Buddy:
Buddy: You know the camp - you did it when you were a kid.
Mother of Buddy: Yes, I know the camp, but the other adults had never been there and when I was a kid my leaders knew the camp and we stayed in the areas where we were told we could go. You know - followed the instructions...
Buddy: We are fine - why is everyone being overprotective?
Mother of Buddy: You didn't follow the instructions and scared everyone.
Buddy: It is my genetics to wander off in the woods - grandma told me when we were in the woods

Madam Halushki please accept my apologies

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. You want to give them a long leash, but not so much they hang themselves (and their buddy too) with it.

Julia said...

Ah, but your daughter and her friend probably had a much better time than the other kids, plus she marked a trail (though her method was questionable). orange food coloring??? not ideal). Plus, trail-blazing is just plain fun. When else do kids today get to wander alone in the woods? ;)

PS I nominated you @ the Babble mommy blogger list (http://babble.com/babble-50/mommy-bloggers/nominate-a-blogger/) so go vote for yourself (and for me!) and tell your people to vote. Or I'll tell them: Halushki readers, go vote!

josetteplank.com said...

Dear Buddy Mom -

Yes, well, I apologize for forgetting that my child would parse my instructions at their weakest point and literally run with them. From now on, all instructions will be witnessed, notarized, and approved by another adult.

And yes, I got the same story: they never *were* lost. *They* knew where they were the entire time. I don't doubt it. However, I'm still plucking the gray hairs I got within those 15 minutes or so.

Just to be further safe, I think we immediately need to begin real trail blazing/marking skill, perhaps with shelter building, snare setting, and rabbit gutting.

Oye. Vey.

MommyTime said...

My son would be that literal. Not that he wouldn't necessarily get the point, but that he delights in choosing the literal interpretation that he thinks is probably NOT the right one but that IS a literal precision. Twerp. Then again, he is only six. But perhaps your daughter craves that freedom and chooses to misinterpret too?

Unknown said...

I second you on the real trail-blazing / survival skills training. I guess my boys need it too, given what goes on at Cub Scout camp!

Katie Alender said...

Oh, too much excitement for me. I'm going to be a teacup mommy. Plus, leashes all the way! We were recently at a giant theme park with friends and their 3-year-old went missing (and one of those stomach-turning "I thought she was with YOU!" "I thought she was with YOU!" things, so we didn't know how long she'd been gone)... she turned up 10 minutes later, but that was all it took for me to decide that my children will be leashed.

anne said...

While I can definitely sympathize with the anxiety, I have to say, "Atta girl."

So...are the compass, SA knife and Zippo of the list for birthday gifts?

josetteplank.com said...

Anne - Yes. Maybe a flare gun, too?

Kath said...

Now we're talking!

Maurice Reeves said...

Anne - you can joke about that, but I've already bought a compass and SA knife for both of my kids, and taught them how to identify which direction they're traveling by landmarks.

I tell my wife that when I die in the coming zombie apocalypse, at least my children will survive.

Mother of the Buddy said...

We already have the compass and SA knife. I spent a great deal of time last night rethinking the wild edibles book that we got her wondering if I should be comforted by knowing that she'll know what to eat or if it just encourages this kind of behavior. We've gone over the situation a few times and I can't seem to get her to understand that under the circumstances (20 °F) it was very dangerous thing to do. It is definitely time for the survival courses to start.

Anonymous said...

i'm going to step up for the kids. they didn't go missing on the streets of camden, they were in the woods. the bears are sleeping and the snakes are no where to be seen. the woods of pennsyltucky are safer than the stipped and honeycombed hills of schuylkill county,and you survived. as both children said, they weren't lost! here's to free-ranged children!!and chicken too! ken

josetteplank.com said...

Kenny! I was just going to ask you if you wanted to be a Girl Scout Leader! Now the parents will never trust you, either! ;-)

anne said...

Maurice, if you knew who the horse thief was, you'd know I wasn't entirely joking. ;)

Epilogue comment: Why don't you jump in with both feet and get them the SAS Survival Guide? Or can I get that for her birthday?

Maurice Reeves said...

Anne - that's awesome! If ever I need advice on equine thievery, now I have a source.

I actually bought a book to teach the kids survival from Stackpole Books, which is headquartered in scenic Mechanicsburg, PA. They sell it at the Smithsonian of all places. Biggest downside of the book is that it's way too big to haul out into the woods. But if you want to know EVERYTHING about surviving, it's in there.

Here's the link from B&N: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Survival-Wisdom-Know-How/Stackpole/e/9781579127534

karengreeners said...

Quebec is lovely this time of year, but she'll definitely need that extra sweater.

Ashley H. said...

This sounds like the conversation I have *daily* with my 13-year old son, who *thinks* he's 18, but *acts* more like he's 5. Sounds like Veal Parenting is for me....you should *so* copyright that sucka! :)

Donna @ Snowbound said...

It's a pain sometimes when I remember the freedom I had as a kid and then I look at how I shelter my boys. But a mama's got to do...

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Ozma said...

I'm so confused about this.

Yeah, I did all kinds of crazy stuff. I used to wander through the desert by myself. I tried to climb a mountain. It never even occurred to us to ask if we could climb the mountain. We brought on thermos, dropped it, it broke and we couldn't drink because of the glass. We got so thirsty I tried to kick over a barrel cactus and got a huge spine wedged in my toe.

The mountain was huge. My aunt told me later it would have taken at least four days hike to get to the top.

I also used to wonder through the jungle alone as well. I'm not kidding.

I don't even let my kid hang out in the living room by herself most of the time.

Debbie said...

why not girls, indeed. that book should be unisex.

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Anonymous said...

Baby, you bin gone so long I thought I had unsubscribed to your feed like a dickwad.

I'm not one to sling stones though. I took a month off and didn't tell anyone.

Sylvia said...

It's been really hard for me to let go of my daughter and do some "free range parenting". I always feel like I need to keep her close to keep her safe. I'm really making an effort though because I would like her to be a little more independent!
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Helicopter Mom said...

Veal parenting - I LOVE IT!!!!

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