Free Range Kids!

Summer Camp girls poses for picture at sliding rock.
What’s Not to Love About Sliding Rock!?

Western North Carolina is pretty “crunchy.” Nearby Asheville attracts a pretty eclectic crowd, from the granola set to outdoor enthusiasts, artists, sustainable livers (not the organ)…you name it and you can probably find it in Asheville. There is a big movement in these parts to buy local foods, raised or grown in our own backyards. Many of you are familiar with “Free Range Birds.” Proponents argue that chickens that have no confines are happier, healthier and better for you once they meet their demise (if you can catch them). The theory sits well with me and makes a lot of sense.

What makes even better sense to me is the same theory applied to our children. There is a growing argument out there that the well-intentioned structure that we provide for our own children can be similar to the cage that confines the bird…no room to stretch its wings, explore the world, develop a curiosity that builds creativity…free range kids. I didn’t coin the phrase, and am certainly not the first or last to consider it. Lenore Skenazy has a website with the same name.

What’s hard is that there are some pretty scary things out there that can happen…many of which are beyond our control. We’re sending our first child off to college this fall. ¬†We’ve paved the way with the benefits of our wisdom, but a lot of that falls on deaf ears. Maybe, if we’re lucky, it will leave a velcro strip to which successive experiences will “stick.” For many if not all of you, sending your child off to Illahee takes a tremendous amount of faith. But, it’s also the greatest gift you can give your girls. The healthiest adults are willing to take risks. And risk taking takes practice.

In no more obvious circumstance have I seen this at play than tonight at Sliding Rock. I hope I’m not embarrassing an amazing family who has seen great trials the last several years after a terrible accident that almost resulted in the loss of a leg. After sheer tenacity and an unwillingness to compromise, multiple surgeries, setbacks and successes, this camper, who we’ve all been rooting for through her Caring Bridge site (and directly), is finally back at camp this session. Talk about a HAPPY camper! This girl loves every minute, and you’d almost never know about her accident. Amazing.

Even so, Sliding Rock was a stretch. If I was her dad (and I am for these three weeks), I would be a nervous wreck. Laurie spoke to her mom, who too was nervous, but agreed that she should slide if she wanted to. There was no question. She wanted to…three times! We arranged things so that there would be another camper to bump off of if the slide went sideways instead of straight, and there was sheer joy with each successive slide. She finally looked up at Gretchen, who was taking pictures at the bottom, and said, “I am SO happy”!

Some of our victories are great big and obvious. Some are never shared. They are not all dramatic, but they are no less important. And, they are happening by the minute in this environment that lends itself to accomplishment.

It was another great day in the Heavenly World. We are in a pattern of cooler, sunny weather, briefly interrupted by much needed and quick afternoon showers. Our kitchen is in a groove with bacon and eggs, cereal and bagels fro breakfast, “walking tacos” for lunch with salad and saucy black beans…and a good old Southern Cracker Barrel dinner (baked ham, creamy mac and cheese, green beans or lima beans, corn bread, and fried okra).

Hillbrook went to Sliding Rock, while Heigh Ho and Pineview stayed back for Game Show Mania, and the antics of longtime friend Bill Grimsley. Contestants answered questions and performed stunts for points. It was all very high energy. Tomorrow, I start my 7th Grade day-long adventures, so stay tuned for some great pictures.