Last year marked a turning point for us in our parenting.
We (well, "I"- I shouldn't act like Terrance was HAPPY about this) insisted that our daughter start walking to and from school BY HERSELF. Prior to that Terrance had walked her to school and one of us had waited to walk her home after school.
When we lived in New Hampshire, there was simply no choice. Everything is spread so far out over a multitude of miles that unless we planned on preparing our daughter to trek 6 miles over terrain on which there was no sidewalks, traffic lights or evidence of human habitation she simply was NOT walking to school. This wasn't little house on the prairie, for pete's sake.
Upon moving to our hood in Montreal, she was still only in 2nd grade and we were new to the neighborhood. LOTS of parents walk with their kids here, and it was novel to simply have sidewalks. Yes, wrap your collective minds around that! We had just moved from a place in which Moose and Foxes and a multitude of other wildlife regularly sauntered up onto our deck. Sidewalks and Street Lights were novel concepts for our family. You can imagine what the idea of having the school a mere two BLOCKS from our HOUSE felt like - It was amazing.
So - We walked her from school. We picked her up from School. We chatted going, we chatted coming. It was nice.
Somewhere between 3rd and 4th grade, she asked to walk to school on her own. Her father hesitantly agreed. Then followed her, ducking behind trees as he tailed her - poorly - to school. Within a few days, she asked him to start walking her again. Frankly, I think she liked the company and time with him.
It was last year when I decided to push this baby bird from her nest. She was in 5th grade. Many of the parenting clashed we were experiencing were between her insistence that she was OLD enough to do LOTS of things - and her repeated proof of her immaturity....like not being able to walk the towels to the hamper....or hiding her dirty socks in her dresser. After one particularly tearful and extended battle between her and her father, I took him aside.
"We have to force her to be more independent. You can't complain that she isn't acting her age when you have not given her the space to Try."
Terrance and I never Quite seen eye to eye on parenting. I am more of a loosey-goosey parent and he is the Fort Knox of Fear/Anal Retentive parent. I have been fighting against HIM from the moment I gave her finger foods to try to pick up herself and he accused me of trying to starve her. Also, making her use a sippy cup was surely leading to massive dehydration and brain tissue decay.
You think I jest? Um, No.
She, predictably, pushed back. She didn't WANT to walk to school by herself. It was too...COLD...or too WET...or too SCARY. I pulled her up short at the scary accusation. Scary? In broad daylight with all the other kids walking to school? Knowing a majority of the parents in the houses nearby? Scary? When she has had a cell phone of her very own since she was 9 to use to call us if she needed to? Puh-lease.
So she started. And she was fine. At first she would call us as soon as she Got to school to tell us she was there. Then she would call us after school to tell us she was either on her way home....or going to play in the park next to the school with some friends for a bit before walking home. Later, that became "going to the library" or "Going to the pool".
This summer, we added riding her bike to and from the community pool as part of her circle of independence. I have even let her walk down to the convenience store ( about 6 blocks) to pick up something and walk back. She was ready. She was confident she COULD do it and we had walked her through the steps of How to do it.
Yvonne just wrote a post about her six year old walking home from the bus stop. She is being pointed to the free range parenting "movement" by many commenters and told "Oh Just LET her Do it".
I don't think it is so simple, however. Parenting is not only about negotiating with your Child, but also within yourself. If you are not comfortable - and you have good reasons that satisfy YOU - then you get to make the decisions. Its why we ARE the parents.
Furthermore, deciding that you LIKE walking with your kid, or LIKE meeting her as she gets off the bus is OK too. I don't know why, but I get the feeling there is some kind of shame being thrown at parents who just LIKE being with their Kid vis a vis the free range parenting.
One of the things I say to Emily ALL the time is that she will have far more time to be an adult than she will have to be a Kid. That time is growing shorter and shorter for us. Her joy at Playmobil will diminish, her love of Harry Potter will fade. Next week we are interviewing a potential High School for her (I shit you Not) and the whole Idea of having a kid in high school is enough to send me on a drinking binge while I weep for my poor, dusty uterus.
She is, as I wrote before, closer to leaving me than coming from me.
We should never allow others to make us feel shame for our parenting decisions. So what if we attachment parented or breast fed or bottle fed or had our kids cooking at age 7 or walking to and from school in kindergarten? We each do the very damn best we can with our "package" - the mix of fears and hopes an experiences and personalities that make up our Individual families.
So, in the immortal words of Humpty Hump from Digital Underground:
"Do Whatcha Like."