No matter how many camps, vacations or days you’ve planned to avoid those two dreaded words (“I’m bored”), summer always brings a sense of freedom. That’s partly why we chose this time of year to tackle the challenge — and invite you, readers, to do the same — of free-range parenting. As I attempted for one month to loosen the leash on my two daughters (you can judge for yourself whether I passed or failed), I was reminded again that parenting, while such a universal experience, is also defined by very personal choices.
I received an even more important reminder, though, this past Father’s Day. My husband and I had been joking recently that “we never do anything anymore.” Before we became parents and then when our kids were small, it seemed like we spent every weekend on a hike, a ferry adventure or an exploration of a new part of the region. As our kids grew, so did commitments and responsibilities. Soccer games, swimming lessons, school and work projects, and tasks at home often get in the way of one of the most important ingredients of family life: unscripted fun.
On Father’s Day we pushed ourselves out the door, dog and swimsuits in tow, on a multi-stop excursion that led us, at last, to discover Iverson Spit Preserve on Camano Island. As the sun warmed the shallow shore, we splashed, built driftwood forts and whiled away the afternoon. Forget free-range parenting, I thought to myself. Let’s go for free-range familying! My husband and I just marked our 13-year anniversary (according to Jewish tradition you could say we celebrated our relationship’s Bar Mitzvah — we’ve finally become adults!). On our anniversary, our daughters, 8 and 10, played a very special violin concert for us that included “Pachelbel’s Canon,” the song we walked down the aisle to at our wedding. What a gift. What a lucky wife and mother I am.
My husband and l feel both our relationship and ourselves maturing. Time goes so fast. And yet we need to stop and remind ourselves to make space for that unscripted time, to put down the phones (see “Free-range screens”) and look away from our crazy schedules and just be together as families. I might not be the most chill-out, free-range mom, but I am 120 percent in favor of renewed free-range familying! We’d love to see your happy family adventures, too. This summer, Tweet us your pictures of family fun around Puget Sound, or post them on our Facebook page, using #SoundFamilyFun. However you find freedom, enjoy it.