how authors give kids room for autonomy. We can see the reasons kids in those books often have no parents, or are somehow separated from parents (everywhere from Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket to Gary Paulson and classic tales like the Narnia books or even Huck Finn). And while the level of adulthood to which those kids rise is sometimes unbelievable, and the stresses put on them obviously not what we want for our kids, I can't help looking at them and thinking about the level of self-sufficiency my own kids have (or don't have).
We live in a world (at least here in the US of A) where kids are more and more protected, and less and less allowed to wander freely and discover the world on their own. I grew up in a time and place where from a pretty young age (when we were all three pre-teens) my brothers and I were allowed to wander on our own. But that was mostly in the woods, not in the city (we never lived in anything like a city, or even much of a town). We learned to do stuff, both fun stuff outdoors and, because both my parents worked (at least part of the time), we learned to do stuff at home--like cook. Being poor may have helped--we had responsibilities that mattered, unlike the heavy consequences of my boys forgetting to take out the trash or fold the laundry. (Of course, if they don't learn a little more cooking in the next few years, they'll find that there are unhappy consequences to that ignorance).
We've done our best to give our kids the freedom to do what we did as kids, but now we live in the city (more of an urban suburb, really), and while I don't worry too much about safety, frankly the place just isn't as interesting as the forests and beaches my brothers and I explored. So I can give them freedom, but will they take it?
And what about the bigger challenge: teaching our kids to be more self-sufficient, encouraging them to learn the skills they need to get by on their own? Short of dumping them out of a crashed plane in the middle of the Canadian North (Hatchet), how do we get them to take responsibility?
And do we think that reading about kids who are very capable and independent helps our kids to think about becoming that way themselves? I'm pretty sure it did for me.
So what do you do to make sure your kids develop at least a small part of the self-sufficiency of the Pevensies or the Famous Five? Not to mention Laura Ingalls Wilder or Gary Paulson's heroes?