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Motherhood: On Giving Your Kids Freedom & Independence

I read this article On A Cup Of Jo the last night and this opinion in the NYT this morning and it resonated with me so much. How much independence do we let our kids have? When can we start letting them branch out on their own? How to handle your own fears?

Lara turned 8 this past April and I can slowly see her crave more and more independence. I’ve been letting her play outside in the yard between our buildings for a few years now (I think since she’s been about 5) but mostly because it’s enclosed and I feel like it’s secure enough. Also, I have a complete overview of it from my kitchen. Unfortunately, I can’t fathom letting her walk to the bakery on her own. Yet.

I have also been letting Lev stay out in the yard with his sister on his own too. But it was tough in the beginning and we literally started with 2 minutes and then increasing up to 15-20.

I watch them like a hawk from my kitchen window but his glee about being left “on his own” is evident. And Lara revels in the role of sister-babysitter-mother. It’s crucial for their development. But still, I can’t bring myself to fathom letting them go somewhere on their own, outside of the self imposed courtyard boundary, which they respect to the T.

Lara came down with a pneumonia this past spring and was q sick. She was home from school for about two weeks and Vid was gone for 10 days at the same time. Duringuite the week a sitter watched her and I combined that with working from home but during the weekend I was home alone with a child getting over pneumonia and a healthy 4 year old boy. Naturally, some decisions had to be made and I ended up leaving her at home with her Tinitell and strict instruction to not open the door for ANYONE for about an hour to go to the nearby park and get groceries with Lev. And to be honest, I wasn’t too worried about it. I was worried to tell people though.

Which frankly, I thought was insane. My daughter is 8 and very responsible. She was safe at home with means to contact me or her dad with all the safety procedures well designated. During the day. How could this be bad?

I know that some would definitely frown upon it. On her part, she was amazing and proud and very “mature” but it begs the question, how would this be seen by others? Would I be mommy shamed for doing so? Would it be the same if Vid had done it?

I honestly don’t think so. And I honestly don’t think calling a baby sitter for an hour for an 8 year old during the day send the right message to her either. I think it sends the message that I don’t think her capable (she’s in 3rd grade) of staying put for an hour at home and I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do.

Of course, I think parents need to take many different elements into consideration here such as age, maturity of the child, as there is no one rule fits all but there needs to be some common sense around the topic.

And I completely agree that we need to let our children some degree of alone time and independence despite our fears. And I’ll be the first to have some serious, sometimes quite irrational anxiety about my children’s. Vid can attest to this (I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m insane half the time. Insane to the point where I have contingency plans if we have a home invasion, no joke!)

Then I try to remember how it was when I was young. When I rode my bike through the woods with friends for hours and my parents let me walk home from school when I wasn’t much older than Lara. I took the bus to tennis practice on most days and even though I agree that times are a little different today, I know a day will come when I’ll have to face those fears and let them go out on their own.

But how will they be prepared for it if I shelter them and coddle them before that? The balance is hard, as it is with most things. But I also think it’s one of the most important things in a child’s development.

What do you think?

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