This morning as a sit on my porch swing sipping my coffee in peace, I saver my ten to fifteen minutes of relaxation before my workday begins. I have recently gained this time by allowing our eight and a half-year old daughter walk to the bus stop alone. The bus stop is about 5 or 6 houses down to the corner of our street. There are generally six to seven children who wait together for the bus in the morning. I can even see the stop from the end of my driveway!
The past few years I have always walked her to the bus stop and would wait with her until the bus came. This school year I have walked our second grader to the bus stop and have left her there with the rest of the children to wait for the bus ‘alone’. Yes, I said it ALONE. Yes, I see the humor in that statement as well.
Now we live in a fairly safe neighborhood. A typical suburb in southern Wisconsin. There is no legitimate reason for why I couldn’t have been having her do this for the last year or so. In fact she has been walking home from the bus stop by herself without causing me any stress for some time. BUT, for some reason it is harder mentally and emotionally for me to have her leave the house and walk alone to the bus stop then it is for her to walk home when the bus drops her off after school.
When my daughter was an infant I was unbelievably overprotective, to an extreme. Yes she is my first child and our only child. When she was a toddler I was the stereotypical helicopter parent. As she entered 4K and then elementary school I have been able to loosen the reins (slightly) and give her some room and freedom to grow and learn from her consequences. I know that holding onto your child a little too tight will not allow them to develop the skills that they need to become a healthy well-rounded adult. So over the last year, every few months, I try just think of a way that I can give her a tiny bit more freedom and responsibility to learn and make her own mistakes and a safe way.
An example of this is letting her go to the bathroom in restaurants, to wash or what have you, by herself. We have even begun to allow her to stay home alone for up to a half hour at a time while we walk the dog. With this has come some great discussions of “what should you do if…”. Our goal is to teach her how to make choices on her own and become confident that she can handle whatever arises.
I am completely aware that she is fully capable of doing so much more on her own and that it is my own neurosis causing the issue. In today’s day and age every time anything bad happens it is all over the news and social media. All these dangers are constantly in our face. Dramatizing each and every instance of horrible terrible events creating an illusion of probability and frequency.
Society is telling us to keep our children within arms length to protect them. Yet by doing this we are not allowing them to gain confidence and independence or learn how to problem solve. With the news focusing on every incident it appears that abductions are happening every time a child walks out their front door.
The reality is that roughly 115 children annually fall prey to “stereotypical kidnappings“;tragic but a far cry from the 800,000 reported missing children number often quoted. https://missingchild.wordpress.com/category/missing-children-statistics/ “The scale of the problem” by MCA 2/5/2008
I think most parents want to do the right thing, keep their kids out of harms way and never let them experience anything negative. I am definitely included in this group. However, by sheltering them we are not allowing them to make or experience small errors or complications. This keeps our children very dependent on us or others for solutions to simple everyday problems.
I know that I am not always the best at this, but I try to recognize when I am being too over-protective. We want our little girl to grow into a strong independent young woman.
How are you doing with giving your children appropriate freedoms? Comment below and let me know!