I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of giving age appropriate freedom to kids – about letting go of fear and letting our kids play without constant intervention.
And I’ve been thinking about the nearly unrecognizable culture of parenting we have now from even a generation ago, when most of us can recall enjoying a high level of independence within our neighborhoods and larger communities.
With my oldest son about to turn 6, this has been a concern for me – how do I let him have experiences and adventures of his own, with the inherent (minor) risk this entails.
There is always *some* risk.
Anyway, I don’t have an extreme “free range” zealous approach to this, but I do want to make sure that I’m not keeping my kids tethered too tightly to me. I want them to have neighborhood friends and I want them to have a sense of connection with others that I don’t believe they will have if they aren’t afforded that chance to, you know, MAKE THOSE CONNECTIONS on their own.
So yesterday the neighborhood kids were running a lemonade stand at a house around the block from me. I can see this house directly from my window (our yards are connected), but my son would have to walk around the block to get there, out of my eyesight briefly, because the yards are fenced. It’s about a 1-2 minute walk.
This was the first time I was letting him go all the way around the block alone. I felt proud of him, and of myself for letting him. And also ever so slightly anxious.
I let my neighbor friend know that my son was about to walk over, so she was expecting him. A few minutes passed and I couldn’t see him through my window, as I expected to. I felt a small tightening in my chest – where was he? He should be there by now.
I reminded myself of the *extreme* rarity of child abduction. The threat exists, of course, but its prevalence in our imagination so far outweighs the chance of it happening that it’s hard to overstate. Statistically speaking, on average you would have to leave your kid unsupervised outside for 750,000 years for him to be abducted and murdered. It does happen, it’s horrific. But the chances of it happening are way less than one in a million.
I knew he had to be right there. But still – where was he??
I was a little nervous, despite myself. I texted my friend.
“Can you see my small explorer?”
“No. Should I go in my house and check?”
Now my chest was really getting tight. How was he not there?
“I’m going to come look for him. He should be there by now.”
A start to head out the door and my phone rings – its my neighbor.
“HE IS HERE! Sorry! He came right over! I read your text quickly and thought you asked if I could see a Ford Explorer?!?!”
First off, she was probably wondering why I was on the lookout for Ford Explorers. She was busying managing a lemonade stand.
Secondly, I was reminded how quickly my not- always- rational mom-brain can activate into panic mode. Pretty quickly, it turns out.
The thing is, letting go of fear and letting our kids play is hard. And it’s necessary.
I calmed my nerves and smiled, relieved. And happy that I was able to acknowledge the reality that – yes – there is danger in the world – while still letting my little guy enjoying a few minutes out of my site, at the neighborhood lemonade stand.
Just like I did when I was little.
Want A Mothership Down delivered to your inbox? SUBSCRIBE HERE.