One Small Step
Today #Kid3, 8 years old, walked to school on his own for the first time.
This is a milestone we've been working toward for about a year now -- short jaunts to my workplace (150 metres from home and the halfway point to school) to buy penny candy or to play at the nearby park, walking a block ahead of me when out running errands to practice handling the intersections and crossing lights on his own.
He was thrilled.
I'm sitting here with my heart in my mouth.
I know he will be fine -- he'll be more than fine, he could have been doing this for months now -- but I feel guilty for worrying about what others will think or about "concerned neighbours" making a phone call, instead of celebrating and supporting his growing independence. I honestly believe one of the biggest sources of parental anxiety is worrying about how others view your parenting.
We live in a world that increasingly discourages children from having these small freedoms.
We live in a world that loves to judge parents (and mothers, in particular) for how their children behave, whether their child succeeds, and what their child is doing. Weighing our child's need for small, manageable freedoms against how others will interpret and act on what they believe they see can be difficult.
There is a balance that needs to be struck...
On the flip side, we don't want vulnerable children to be at risk either, and we don't know whether their parents have adequately prepared them for certain situations. There is a balance that needs to be struck between keeping kids safe and teaching our kids to keep themselves safe -- between teaching them independence and encouraging them to use that independence.
Denying our children the opportunity to navigate these incremental freedoms leaves them woefully unprepared for their teen and adult years when freedoms come fast and furious, and children are less open to their parents showing them the ropes. By starting them young, we give them space to safely fail and learn and try again when the consequences are less harmful, so that when they are older and their freedom more expansive they have an archive of experience to fall back upon.
In the time it took me to write this, another parent messaged me and let me know that he rocked his walk to school, just like I knew he would.