Wish You Were Here: Hold Onto Your Horses if You’re Free-Ranging Your Children (and Watch Out for that Sword)

Every so often I let go of the reins. Not really. Horseback riding is for sure right up there with skydiving (I’ll put it in “plane” terms — no) and mall shopping (not a big crowd-pleaser). Maybe I got kicked in the head by something equine or maybe I’m just a glutton for gosh, what will they think of next but sometimes I feel like I just have to release control and see what fresh hell is afoot in the ring. Hold up. Let me back up the horse a little.

I have this little problem with micromanaging my kids or maybe enabling them or maybe a horse really did kick me? Anyway, I want them to be autonomous and self-sufficient and all that other stuff that Lenore woman talks about, like our children are like chickens or something, right? I want to let go of this illusion that I have control and allow my middle schooler to … what do smart parents say, ‘Advocate for herself?’ Figure it out? Run around the house with a sword because, um, yeah, that was currently happening like in a very real Crouching Tiger, Hidden S***a kinda way and she bought this, this delightful little treasure — with her own money, mind you, and (because I’m an idiot) I let her.

It was another one of those free rein, free range, my kid’s a chicken moments and she wanted so desperately to go to this big rummage sale they have twice a year in town, that I seem to blow the better part of my Someday, Someday, Maybe, Never Never Bora Bora Fund on, and okay, yes, I’m very much talking about Minks to Sinks and I thought it would be fine, more than fine (after consulting with a bottle of Bourbon and a bushel of brownies and okay, she wore me down) for her to meet her little friend at the place where my money goes to die as long as she kept her phone on her, responded when I texted (never) and checked in with my older daughter every so often (avoided eye contact like the plague and ran in the opposite direction multiple times, multiple locations), that she could “minkle” with her friend and shop around.

But then I got that sinking feeling — as I pulled the van around, my older daughter put an index finger to her own temple, double pulling on the trigger as I did a double-take at the very heavy, very realistic looking sword (with a blunt tip) she had purchased and very much proceeded to attempt to convince me was “perfectly fine” for her to bring to Ambler Farm Day and that she apparently brandished for the nice people at Wilton Deli — that I was in for it.

Swords happen. Nails, too apparently, because just a few weeks prior I (foolishly) thought to drop her off in town under my (she’s going to start hating me) older daughter’s supervision for a $10-turned-$50-set-of-acrylics-on-my-Visa-card manicure because she happened to hear $15 and not $50 and then happened to resemble Effie Trinket or some type of sloth, for the better part of September.

So, here’s the thing. I guess in fairness I’ve mostly taken for granted that my older daughter has never needed a very long rein or range and — with the exception of that one time she disappeared in Boston Square, lured by two (thankfully child-friendly) teen girls giving away FREE HUGS — has largely been less adventurous, more likely to pick up her phone, and disinterested in nine-inch nails and 19-inch swords. She’s always been a good girl, a rule follower, a cross-her-I’s-and-dot-her-T’s and yes, I realize what I just wrote there. The point is, my job for the most part was easy in terms of letting the horse out of the stable and knowing it would always come back because really, it just liked watching Dora and eating Annie’s mac and cheese.

And then Sword-Yielding Sally came along and things got a little more complicated. And then Junior arrived and while I let him free range from the kitchen to the living room and sometimes the playroom if I’m feeling really gutsy, I’m not quite sure he’s ready to ride the subway or go grocery shopping by himself. Right? Still too young.

But (for now anyway) the Kirschner kids are out there and roaming free (sort of) on three (somewhat short) reins and yes, they might not always make the most wonderful choices and yes, they may come looking for free hugs or blunt tip blades or their mom’s Visa card (btw, has anyone seen it?) but isn’t that how I teach them to be chickens? I mean, resourceful. I mean, independent? By opening the gates and allowing them to run free? By letting go? Who knows, man. I guess we’ll find out. All I can say is hold onto your horses.

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.