Spring has sprung! Let the wild rumpus begin!
Around here, we’ve seen pretty mild temperatures for weeks, but now we can officially adorn shorts and flip flops without reservation. The kids are thrilled to be spending as much time as they possibly can outdoors, and from what I’ve seen driving around, every other child in town feels the same way — they’re out in yards or on their bikes or just wandering down to the Cracker Barrel for a slushie.
Which has me wondering –at what age is it okay to do this?
We live on a pretty busy street that doesn’t have a sidewalk — well, there is one, but you have to cross the street to get on it (no crosswalk) or walk over a neighbor’s yard to cross another street (no crosswalk) to get to the sidewalk on our side. From there you can use a crosswalk. So, when we bike or scoot or walk somewhere, I inch out and stop traffic so my ducklings can make their way without fear.
Needless to say, I’ve been hesitant about letting the older kids wander freely. Which is not to say I don’t — I’ll stop traffic so Mitzi can cross to meet a friend who lives down the street. Or for Cooper, so he can drag his hockey stick to his buddy’s house in the development across from us. But letting them go makes me a little nervous.
Still, they’re 10 and 9 and we live in a pretty safe town. When I see clusters of kids ambling along in the bright spring sunshine, I realize that perhaps I’m ready to take the plunge. I have to trust that my own kids are smart enough not to stumble into traffic or walk on the train tracks or get into a car with a stranger. That they can walk to the corner store for a bottle of water and nothing bad will happen.
I read a blog post on Boston.com yesterday on this very topic. The author articulates very well why we adults today have this deep fear of letting our kids roam free, and nicely sums up why our fears might actually be more irrational than based in reality. For instance, a child has more chance of being abducted by a relative than a stranger, and we have more in place to help protect our children (for instance, Amber Alert). But our fear persists, and she wonders if it has something to do with the immediacy of media — when something bad happens, the news spreads quickly and loudly, and scares the bejeebers out of parents everywhere.
But we do have to let them go, eventually. We have to trust that we’ve helped them develop the skills they need to take these baby steps away from us, because, well, they need to become independent eventually. Small ways first, certainly, but parents know better than anyone how fast the years go by, and before we know it, they will be heading off alone.
I think of this as I watch Cooper jog up the street, clutching a stick in one hand and a puck in the other. He gets to the corner and waves at me, then disappears around the bend. My heart squeezes and I close my eyes. In my mind, I can see him galloping along, his friend meeting him halfway, can almost hear their laughter whipping on the wind as they slap one shot after another into the driveway net.
It’s time to let my little ducks try to make their way.
As long as they call me when they get there.