I’ve never thought to label my parenting style–although at times I’ve suggested that I’m a bit more of a Type B parent, since I’m so type A in the rest of my life, there’s just no more A to go around.
I know there’s free-range parents and helicopter parents; attachment parents and authoritarians. As for me, I suppose I fall smack in that wide swath of middle ground, in between hey three year-olds…take a subway by yourself. You have the small motor skills to use a Metrocard, right? And OMG what were you thinking, eating that sugar-free organic cookie WITHOUT USING HAND SANITIZER FIRST. We’re going to the doctor immediately.
You see yourself in that spectrum too? Welcome!
I’m protective to some degree, because hi, I’m human. And yet I want to inspire confidence and independence in my children by giving them freedom in relatively risk-free environments.
Don’t know about you, but I’d call their school, a relatively risk-free environment.
This past fall, I started allowing Thalia to walk up the stairs by herself to her first grade class. (Sniff.) She loves it so much, I now find it sweet when she deigns to ask me to walk up with her. It’s awesome to know that sometimes, my hand still feels comforting holding her own. But most days, I wave goodbye at the bottom of the stairs, after insisting on a final kiss, and watch her race up to find her friends.
Remarkably…wait for it…she has yet to get lost on her way from the stairs to the classroom; the classroom that’s right next to the stairs.
I’m raising a genius!
And so, in part inspired by Thalia’s remarkable sense of direction, we’ve taken it one step further. Now, some mornings, I say goodbye at the door while she walks Sage to her preschool class, then returns to her own class by herself. Occasionally it’s because I’m running late in the morning. But sometimes it’s just because she begs and pleads and wants so badly to be the big kid with that level of responsibility–and Sage doesn’t mind it much either.
And yet, it’s remarkable how many parents seem surprised by this.
I’ve seen a few raised eyebrows, heard a few backhanded comments from behind plastered smiles, along the lines of “wow…that’s very trusting of you.
And this is where I think the world has gone mad.
Again, I fall somewhere in the middle on the Parenting Panic Scale (PPS™). I appreciate the thinking behind Take Your Children to the Park…and Leave Them There Day, but I don’t think we’re ready for that based on our children’s ages and where we live, and the creepy strung-out smelly methadone guy who seems to hang around our neighborhood a little too often. I do, however, think that allowing my kid to walk down the halls of her own school unaccompanied and make a stop along the way in another classroom, is a reasonable thing.
Along the same lines, I think letting my five year-old pee on her very own in an individual bathroom in the local café ten feet from our table is a reasonable thing.
Yes, we do that too.
The likelihood that something awful will happen? In the zero range.
The likelihood that another parent in the café will throw us horrified looks? A lot greater.
I know that our visceral reactions as parents are not always based on logic or common sense. Sending my kids off without me down the hall may still trigger fleeting thoughts about that one time, that one case, that one story we heard on the news where…that one rumor with that kid who…
But I work really hard to fight those thoughts. Ratings-starved alarmist cable news anchors? I’m beating you. You too, Purell.
I want my kids to grow up savvy. I really don’t want them to grow up scared.