Monday, August 17, 2009

But He'll Always Be My Baby

Sometimes raising kids is just really a judgment call. What one kid is mature enough to do at a certain age another kid just isn’t ready to do for a whole lot longer. I know kids who I wouldn’t trust to stay by themselves for a few hours who are teens while I know some kids who can be trusted for an hour or two as young as nine or ten. Every kid is unique, and with their uniqueness comes the need to parent in such a way that guidelines are treated as nothing more than that – general guidelines from which you deviate as called for by particular children and circumstances.

It is with this thinking and attitude that we arrived at yesterday. N wanted to ride the bus all by himself, just to explore and see “the world” and be back home no later than six in the evening. My heart did cartwheels. My baby, he’s only ten (almost eleven he reminded me), and oh my goodness this idea just took my breath away. However, here are some things I know about N: He is energetic, resourceful, outgoing, clever, self-assured, inquisitive, and street savvy. As much as I want to protect my baby, he is not a baby anymore. He reminded me that there are children in New York who ride the subway by themselves to and from school. (Is that a fact or a fiction from his mind used to persuade dear old mom? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t really matter. Our town is not New York. Our bus system is not the subway. Whatever. . .)

The upshot is that I did indeed let him spend his Sunday afternoon exploring our town armed with a bus pass, his MP3 player and the $20 he has earned recently with lawn mowing and such. And guess what? He survived and returned home with bus pass and MP3 player intact and with most of his $20 (he bought candy and soda, surprise, surprise, with a couple of bucks). Not only that he had a great time and was quite proud of himself for having such an adventure.

I know a lot of parents today say you can’t or shouldn’t let kids have the freedom we had when we were growing up. The world is too dangerous. I disagree. I don’t think N is any more likely to be kidnapped than I was at his age. It is a danger, a real one, but stranger abductions are quite rare, just highly publicized, much more so now than when I was a child. At some point, you just have to decide that the risk is worth it for the rewards. The rewards, as I see it, are a child who isn’t neurotic and paranoid, one who can confidently go out into the world and navigate through it. It seems to me that the rewards far outweigh the risks.

Or I’m just a nut who lets my kid run amok. I’m sure some will see it that way.
Meh. . . whatever. . .


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on 2 points.
1. He will always be your baby.
2. People (kids included) grow and develop exponentially through experience and handling things on their own.

Jeni Angel said...

I totally think you did the right thing. You know N. It's a great way to foster independance, self-reliance and a sense of adeventure.

When I was his age, we had free reign in our community. We would be gone all day, usually on our bikes, and only came home when the street lights came on.

The good ole days!

Val said...

Of COURSE he'll always be your baby!
My stomach clenched every single time I left Z unattended on our road trip (for instance, when Mom had to go to the toilet, can't just drag him into the women's room anymore!)
ha ha - but of course everything was fine... I even let him "explore" a little on his own when we were at Indian Lodge.