Morning Coffee: Free-Range Parenting

SummerFree-range parenting. What an odd phrase! It makes me think of free-range chickens, and in a sense, it isn’t much different. The idea is to let your children be free to roam the neighborhood on their own. You know, walk to school, ride their bike to a friend’s house or go to the park or the corner 7-11 without their parent(s) tagging along. Sound familiar?

This concept is not a new one…although an entire generation of young parents seems to think it is and enters into great debate over whether or not it’s wise to allow children such freedom. What if something happened? What if they fell off their bike and mom wasn’t there to pick them up? What if they use their entire allowance to buy the largest Slurpee and end up with a tummy ache? I’ve talked to mothers who are convinced if a child is left alone, even in their own yard, something awful is going to happen to them. These children never learn how to be independent. They never have a chance to make a mistake, live with that mistake, and fix that mistake all on their own. Now, I’m not talking about whether or not it’s a good idea to allow a child to cross a busy street alone, only a parent knows when they’re ready for that. And I realize there are some neighborhoods where children are not safe on their own. By staying close, those parents are doing right by their children.

When I was growing up back in the Stone Age our mothers pushed us out the back door on a beautiful summer morning with a reminder when to be home for lunch. Then, after we were done eating, she pushed us back out in the afternoon. We rode our bikes to visit a friend, go to the library or the public swimming pool. Sometimes we just rode around town or even out into the country to the next town, because it sounded like a fun thing to do. We even played outside at night! Remember Kick The Can and all those other games best played in the dark? Forget summer reruns on the television, and we didn’t have cable or computers back then, but we had so much fun we hated to come in when called and the memories are still fresh all these years later.

Yes, we did have to tell mom where we planned on going, who we would be with, but she understood that might change and we just had to check-in with her first. We didn’t have cell phones, but we did know that our mothers talked to each other and any misdeeds would most definitely be reported. . .usually before we got home.

A child needs to learn how to get along in their environment. I grew up in a small town more years ago than I care to admit, but even a child growing up in a city today can learn those lessons in a safe manner. Allowing children to grow through age-appropriate levels of freedom is how we get them to a successful and independent adulthood. After all, isn’t that the goal? Isn’t the end game to have our children grow up, move out, and live off their own salaries and not our retirement fund?

Morning Coffee: Rainy Day

feetThere’s a certain comfort to a rainy day. The soft glow of a lamp cutting gray light from outside and the tap-tap-tapping of the rain on the roof slows my heart rate while separating me from the concerns that exist only “out there”. It’s a day to cross-stitch, bright threads shaping flowers. It’s a day to read, write, even nap. It’s a day to bury myself under a warm comforter while drinking my coffee and watching an old movie; preferably something with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, or Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelley. The kind of movies made back when Hollywood concentrated on lifting our spirits rather than igniting political protests. It’s not a day to worry about work, or world unrest. It’s a day to turn inward and recharge.

When we were children and couldn’t go out to play we would sprawl on the living room floor and play board games. It was one of the few times I can remember my brothers not minding having to include me. In fact, I think they enjoyed it, too. At least, that’s how I choose to remember it. I can’t speak for them.

002Rainy days are cozy. They should be cherished, not scorned. True, I couldn’t golf today, but that’s nothing a couple episodes of Call The Midwife couldn’t cure. Today’s rain knocked free many of the little red bud casings and I know that means there will soon be bright green leaves filling the empty branches. Our yards, and the golf course, are turning a beautiful shade, as well. Soon the flowers will bloom in all their varied colors.

No, a rainy day shouldn’t be cursed, rather it should be praised and enjoyed for all it does for us today and all it promises to do for us tomorrow.

Morning Coffee: April Snow

Healing HeartThis morning we woke to a fresh blanket of snow; this after some very warm and promising spring weather. I golfed three times last week! Sadly, I won’t be golfing this week. I was reminded of a morning several years back when we had a late snow and a couple deer ventured into the backyard searching for the fresh green shoots they’d been eating on not long before. I took this picture and was inspired to write these few lines.

April Snow
by Jane Yunker

An unexpected spring snowfall
brings a curious breakfast guest,
a white-tailed yearling still wearing
his heavy dark winter coat,
hungry, cautious, slipping
step by hesitant step from the trees,
looking for green grass,
tender young hosta shoots
beckoning from our open yard,
a promise of nourishment
greater than the fear of discovery.



Morning Coffee: Taking Feedback With Grace

001Last week I wrote about making your feedback to others matter. This week I’m talking about the opposite, how to take comments on your own work with grace. It’s not as easy as you think. In fact, it’s a lot more difficult to be open-minded when it comes to your own words under fire. I know, because I’m not always the best at it myself.

First, you have to learn how to listen and not talk. Unless you’re asked a question, you just listen. Do not defend. Remember, this is one person’s opinion and you can choose to either go with it, or ignore it later.

Second, take plenty of notes. You don’t want to be in a position later of trying to remember what someone said because now you suspect they might be right and you want to revisit the idea.

Third, smile. At least pretend to be interested. If you scowl, if you look angry or put out, that person might hold back for fear they’re hurting your feelings, or also get angry. You could miss out on something that could improve your work.

And, fourth, don’t discount any of the comments until you’ve given yourself plenty of time to consider them. Go home, set aside your manuscript with notes, and come back to it later when you’ve had a chance to cool off a little. On more than one occasion I’ve realized a comment that seemed ludicrous at the time really did make sense. I was convinced I was saying exactly what they claimed I was not saying, or I certainly wasn’t saying what they said I was saying, so the fault was with them and not me. But then, after a suitable length of time had passed and I reread that part, I realized what I thought I was saying was not what my reader was reading. It didn’t matter what I thought was there, it wasn’t coming across clearly to my reader and when you come down to it that’s what matters. That’s the goal. You know what you want your reader to experience and it’s your job as a writer to make sure that happens.

This works just as well outside creative writing. It could be a report for school or work. It could be your annual job performance review. My advice remains the same: ears open, lips closed and smile firmly in place. The only sounds should be of your critique partner speaking, and your pen or pencil madly scratching out notes…if it’s an appropriate note-taking occasion.

Like I said, they are only the opinions of one person. If, after you have given the matter much thought you still believe your version is better, then your version is better.