Warm weather, new flowers, and kids roaming free. Or not?

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.

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6 thoughts on “Warm weather, new flowers, and kids roaming free. Or not?

  1. I don’t have a wise answer, especially not one with a number in it.
    How well I remember the first time I left my kiddos alone at home. The oldest was fourteen and the youngest was eleven, and they both pointed out to me that kids their age baby-sit.
    I left for about twenty minutes. That’s all I could manage. T’was me who had to loosen the apron strings s-l-o-w-l-y.
    Because it has to happen sometime.

  2. I’m an overprotective mom and I know it. I can’t help it. I keep telling my daughter I won’t apologize for protecting her because it’s my job. She’s only five and yes I say that to her. LOL

  3. There is no easy anwerer in this day & age. It depends on the child first. Is he or she mature enough to follow what you taught them or will they be led by their peers? Busy streets present a real problem. Kids forget to look both ways when rushing to meet friends,They are not a lot different than a lot of audult drivers that do stupid and dangerous stuff while driving.

    Like the mommy eagle there comes a time to let them fly. But be sure they have flying lessons before pushing them out of their nest.

    Maybe it’s time for each of them to have a cell phone so you can each stay in touch.

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