Wednesday, September 1, 2010


For me the word freedom means many different things.  Yesterday was the first day all 4 of my kids were in school for this school year.   I had the day to myself (I hadn't had one of those since last June).  It was also my husband's last day of work at his old firm.  Yesterday #1, in 5th grade, went to soccer practice with 8 friends and 1 mom, walking.  Today I heard the plan that #3, my 2nd grader was to walk to practice with 2 friends and no adult (maybe with a 4th grade older sister).  Am I ready for that much freedom?

I believe it depends on a child's maturity in how much freedom you give them.  Or rather how comfortable I am with letting them go.  #2 is very mature.  I've felt comfortable leaving her at taekwondo since she was in 1st grade.  The problem is that she's seen me be around for #1 most or all of his activities and she doesn't want to be on her own.  If #1 is left on his own at taekwondo, he tends to get into trouble.  Not so much when he's in class, but more when he isn't and is waiting.  It seems the waiting makes him forget how to behave.  He'll learn, right?  I've had to learn that "hovering" in class doesn't make my kids behave more, it makes them more anxious.  It takes away the power of their teacher to teach them if the kids are trying to please their parents the whole time.

My kids have gone to their taekwondo class without me a few times.  It's right next to their school, so it's a route they are all comfortable with.  We ride bikes, scooters, rip-sticks, etc... every day to school, so this isn't any different.  But it is.  Our neighbors go by themselves.  I have seen both of their mothers franticly look for their kids who haven't returned home in time.  Ugh, just when I thought I was ready to let them go on their own.

The same thing happened when I was just starting to let the bigger kids go ahead of me to and from school and "meet" me there.  A story came out that a stranger approached a girl, the same age as #2.  Why, every time I'm ready to take a step forward in independence for and from my kids do these situations arise?  Turns out the story was made up.  It did make me have the conversation with the kids about how and when to ask for help again, which isn't a bad thing.  I try to not attach a story to the "conversation" because the kids will just want the details and won't listen to the message.

Another issue is that we let #1, in 4th grade ride with friends to practice last year on his own.  Why is that an issue?  They did great and were able to get there safely without a grown up.  None of the kids even had a cell phone.  At the time, I felt unsure that that was the correct way to proceed.  I felt uncomfortable without a way to reach out and give a change of plans or check in as I would do if there was a grown up with them.  Obviously, that was my issue and not his.  The real issue is that now that he's tasted freedom, he wants more.  Even though he is part of a group of kids, some of who's parents aren't quite there.  It doesn't make sense to him that he got to go by himself last year and now has a parent with him this year.  There are differences in these scenarios, this year the location is further and they have to walk versus last year they rode bikes in a smaller group.  Regardless of the mode of transportation, he's more confident, and that's a good thing.  He likes the freedom.

So, do I make the choice that is right for my kids as individuals, even though it's not the group's decision?  Will I look like a bad parent if my child goes unsupervised?  Is it even about me?  There are a lot of "what ifs".  I've been reading Free Range Kids blog for a while.  I know the what ifs are there, but you shouldn't react to them for the most part.  Making smart choices about their safety will get me further.  Helmets when riding, seat belts in the car and supervised swimming are among my sticking points.  I'm not sure that being with them en-route to practice is one of them.

I know what seems logical, what would be ideal, and what makes me anxious.  These don't always line up.  I also know I like freedom and like my kids liking it too.  I have also found that if I am not at their class or practice that we have better discussions about it.  The kids have to go into more detail to bring me up to speed.  I like hearing from their perspective.

Some of the references above leads me to want to talk about cell phones, but I think I'll put that in a separate post in the future.


  1. I appreciate your views. Parenting is darn hard and every kid needs something different. I tell that to them all the time. Freedom is a hard one that we all struggle with.