Wednesday, October 19, 2011

growing up

Daniel, who is eight years old, has been badgering us to let him walk the three blocks to school by himself. I'm not ready.

I've known for a while that this time was coming. Last year at this time, he was still holding my hand. Now he likes to walk a few steps ahead. I have to give him his hug goodbye before we are within sight of the school. When he walks into the yard, he doesn't look back.

A few weeks ago, I sent Daniel to the corner store down the block by himself for the first time. He came back clutching the chocolate chips he'd been sent for so tightly that half the bag had melted. And he was so, so proud.

Yesterday afternoon, Daniel asked Tim to ride ahead on his bike so that he could walk by himself. "Let me show you what I can do," he said. So Tim let him walk, circling the block a few times to check up on him and I waited anxiously at home for the knock on our door. Again, when he arrived home, my boy was so, so proud.

I remember the gut-wrenching anxiety I experienced when his brother was this same age and demanding to be allowed to walk on his own. In the years since, we have gradually given him more freedom and he's impressed us with his sense of responsibility - even in some very challenging situations.

It ought to be easier the second time around - and it some ways it is. I feel more relaxed as a parent since Sacha has acquitted himself so well. But I still worry every time one of my boys is out of my sight for too long.

Mostly, I don't like having to let them go. The days of thirteen year old Sacha sitting in my lap to watch a movie are behind us. Every hug from him is precious because they are doled out so sparingly. And Daniel is my baby. There are no little ones coming up behind him to help mitigate my sense of loss.

I know that kids must grow up and away from their parents. A big part of this whole exercise of parenting is about teaching them to be happy, independent people. I just wish it weren't happening so quickly.

And I still want to walk down the street, holding my baby's hand.


Peter Rukavina said...

By coincidence I was around a table at the "meet and greet" before our provincial home and school meeting last night and this very topic came up. There was a wide variety of experiences around the table, from grade 3 students walking themselves to school to grade 6 kids who still walk with their parents.

In our particular situation, we live about 10 minutes walk from the school and there are 4 busy downtown intersections to walk through, the last of which is a true horror show of light-jumping cars, no pedestrian signals and much confusion even for adults, and it's been this last intersection that has kept me from even considering letter Oliver walk to school on his own.

That aside, I find the general issue of Oliver's freedom to roam vexing as a parent. When I was his age I was roaming all over the countryside on my bicycle, regularly visiting friends who were 5 miles away.

Oliver, who's in grade 5, has been to the store a couple of times on his own, and across two street's to his mother's studio a couple of times, but is generally with one of us when he's out and around.

While there are smart, rational reasons for this, there are also a lot of dumb irrational reasons that extend from our own fears. We both know that for Oliver to become more spatially independent he's going to need practice, but we're afraid to let him practice because of the potential danger this puts him in.

I said it was vexing.

Anyway, I feel for you...

Lise said...

I so understand!!! Patrick is 18 and driving on his own now and it is all I can do some days not to run down the street behind the car just to be sure he's ok. And don't even get me started on when he says he and his friends are going "clubbing" in Hull/Gatineau because they can drink there. Suffice it to say that I breathe a sigh of relief when I hear the door open at whatever time he comes home.

It doesn't necessarily get easier, but I think I have become more philosophical about it all. And I just have to trust that we taught him well, and we did our best.


laurie said...

Thanks to you both. I guess parenting is all about feeling conflicted. About second guessing every choice, worrying and then letting go. Vexing indeed.

Ann said...

I am reminded of a Christmas I spent with my brother and sister-in law with their 3 grown up children, aged 40. 37 & 33. They went out one evening and my sister-in-law worried herself until they came home. Two of them have families of their own, and one a business. They all live in London, 200 miles away from 'home', and when they are in London she doesn't worry about them - only when they are back home! I guess we have to remember how old we were when we were let free to go to school on our own - I was 7 - and you were?

laurie said...

I was 5. And I used to run free around the neighbourhood when I was just 4. When the church bells rang, it was time to come home for dinner. And you're right - my mom worries about me all the time, still.

Nat said...

We're slowly allowing The Boy's circle to grow... last year he was allowed to walk to cross the busy intersection by himself. (So long as he has his cell phone.)

But I can tell you, I still get a bit freaked out at the idea.