Even though it is December I want to share this story. I have come a long way as a parent. Our eleven-year-old challenges us to learn, grow and improve nearly every day of her existence. Now, this particular story fills me with pride. Not only am I proud of our daughter, but also of myself for giving her the freedom she needs. Alright, enough about me and on to the good stuff!
As I have mentioned in previous posts, we recently moved to a new city at the end of August. This was our first Halloween in our new home and neighborhood. A different home meant getting creating and figuring out a new strategy for creepy decorations. Taylor had quite a bit of fun decorating the front of the house and trees with skeletons, spider webs, and caution tape. She even climbed a couple trees so that some caution tape could blow in the wind and look spooky. On Halloween night we received several compliments about our decorations. Many parents were impressed that a ten-year-old did it without much assistance and no guidance.
This was also the third year that Taylor cleaned, traced and carved her pumpkin without any assistance! Family carving night is much more enjoyable now that all three of us are responsible for our own pumpkin guts, designs, and carving. We were able to talk and listen to themed music. Pumpkin carving night used to be exhausting and stressful. The planning, helping and clean up would inevitably fall to me. There were a couple years that I almost had us forgo it altogether. Thankfully I persevered and was a patient teacher because now I get to see the fruit of my labor in action. The thought that she puts into her design each year is quite entertaining to listen to; as she articulates it out loud until she reaches her conclusion. I am impressed every year to watch her skill level and designs grow. The intricacy increasing as she ages. This year she carved the grim reaper into her pumpkin to match her costume.
Halloween has become a structured night for most communities. There are set times to trick-or-treat which seem to start earlier and earlier each year. Since both my husband Nick and I work, it was a scramble to not just get costumes on and everyone ready to leave, but also have the porch light on and the candy ready to distribute. I suppose we could have laid out everything the night before, but life got away from us. This Halloween both Nick and I got off work later than planned and to throw another wrench at us Mother Nature made it around 30 degrees. So extra layers were added under costume before the hunt for endless amounts of sugar could ensue. To make matters more exciting, the friend that Taylor was planning to trick-or-treat with was sick and no longer going out. So after a whirlwind of getting ready by the start time of 5pm, BatDad and the Grim Reaper were off to collect the goods while the Queen Mother doled out candy.
Before they had left to brave the cold I had reached out to two of Taylor’s school friends to see if she could meet up with them. With being new to the area we did not have that many established connections. Not that we mind walking with her, but this really is a holiday to be enjoyed with peers rather than parents. Thankfully a little while after they set off one of the classmates I reached out to responded and wanted to meet her at the school at 6pm. What fantastic news! I messaged Nick and offered to chauffer them when it got closer so they could thaw their fingers.
At about 6pm I dropped them off at the school with two of her classmates. On the short drive home I was struck with a brilliant idea! What if I grabbed her phone and let her finish ransacking the neighborhood with her friends – sans chaperone??? I called Nick and proposed the idea. He was not immediately on board, but after I reminded him that I wouldn’t deliberately put our only child in danger he started to come around. I don’t know if it was the cold or the reasons I gave him: we live in a safe neighborhood, its 6pm on a school night, she is with two classmates (whose parents are also okay with them trick-or-treating without an adult), she is mentally/emotionally ready and she has a cell phone for anything that should arise. Pretty sure the cold took over because his response was ‘Alright, come pick me up. I’m freezing!’ It took quite a bit of courage from me to fight my fear of how I or we, would be perceived as parents by allowing our child this freedom in today’s world of helicopter parenting. So when I dropped off the phone I made sure to check that she was comfortable with being unsupervised. Her response was ‘Yeah, bye!’ I reminded her that trick-or-treating was supposed to end at 7:30pm and to call when she wanted to be picked up.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how long she would be out since she had already been in the cold for an hour. We went home and handed out candy then when the traffic slowed down we set the bowl of goodies on the porch and settled into the couch for a movie. Around 6:45pm we took note of the time and pondered how long she would make it. At about 7pm we discussed what time we would check in with her had she not reach out, deciding on 7:45pm in case they were enjoying themselves causing trouble in the neighborhood. Then at 7:15pm, we received a text message that made us crack up (see below).
When I pulled up to the curb the three musketeers were all sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk digging through their candy. As we pulled up to the first stop sign the boys chimed ‘Oh, I know where we are!” as Taylor shook her head. The quickly turned to me with curious eyes asking if I would still drive them home even though they now knew where they were. I swiftly replied ‘No’ and unintentionally startling them. After Tay and I quickly explained that I was joking the kids settled in telling stories of all the cool costumes they saw. After dropping her friends off, we headed home. When arrived with her giant bag of loot, she hauled it up the stairs and emptied on the floor. As she explored her goodies she inquired how many she could eat. My reply was simple and took her by surprise. ‘As many as you want. (Her eyes enlarged with excitement and a wide grin spread across her face) You are lactose sensitive and your belly will be the one suffering the consequences, not mine. (Her smile faded as she stoically looked down at the candy carefully calculating and weighing her options) ’ After a moment or two, Taylor looked up at me and asked quietly, ‘What if I eat five? How does that sound?’ I told her that sounds reasonable, but couldn’t make the decision for her. All in all, she settled on five sweets and a bag of mini pretzels.
At the end of the night, I was filled with pride. I was proud of my husband and myself for stepping out of our comfort zone and allowing her to go off with her friends. I was proud of Taylor for her care and skill while carving her pumpkin and being confident enough to go out without us. I was proud of the decisions she made with her friends and for putting thought into how much candy to eat. I would like to note that I still would have been proud if she had decided to gorge herself on candy IF she had made the choice acknowledging the fact that she would physically feel terrible for that decision. I also felt proud that we have raised a wonderful little person who can be trusted to do things like this. I am still very pleased with how everything turned out if you haven’t noticed by this post.