I got in a wee bit of trouble at the library recently. You see, I'm the kind of mom who lets her children take risks while we're out in public. I guess you could say I'm the opposite of a helicopter mom.
(When I Googled the opposite of helicopter parent, there were all sorts of results. Some included no-rescue parent and others said monster parent. I think I will choose to identify as a free range parent).
Let me tell you the story. When we entered the library, I took my line-up of ducklings and bee-lined it for the bathroom (as any self-respecting pregnant woman running errands with a four-year-old would). Upon exiting the bathroom I realized that the books we needed for some research before an upcoming trip were on a nearby shelf.
There was a time when letting your child walk to the corner store or ride a bike (gasp) on the street was normal play.
I made the judgment call to let my three children walk across the library to the table where the public iPads are kept. I arrived at the table three to five minutes later. Avery kind librarian gently informed me that their policy is children under 12 are not allowed to use the library unsupervised. I smiled, said "OK" and rounded up my crew.
Now I get why such a policy is in place. I mean seriously, if I was a librarian I would do everything in my power to make sure I am not used as a glorified free babysitter.
I wonder though how to give children the freedom to experiment with public independence when it seems to be against the rules -- both the written rules and the implied social rules.
There was a time when letting your child walk to the corner store or ride a bike (gasp) on the street was normal play. Now when I send my 10-year-old to the store, my nine-year-old neighbour is shocked. She actually commented that I just didn't want to protect my kids as much as her parents wanted to protect her.
(Insert eye roll here, please).
I'm kind of thinking that our imaginations have been tainted by the man in the white van luring our children with candy.
My suggestion isn't to let your children turn full-on Lord of the Flies and fend for themselves (don't let your four-year-olds play unattended in the middle of the road or lick the underside of picnic tables, people!). Instead, they should be able to confidently navigate independent situations.
Being able to ask other adults for help, ordering fries from a fast food counter (in my son's case, being able to ask for food ingredients in order to avoid allergic reactions), helping a younger child at the playground, figuring out their own boundaries -- this all takes practice.
I want my children to know that they are just fine out from under my wings. I am only a short distance away and I can be called on for help. Still, that won't always be the case. Eventually they will each need to do something completely on their own, like go to a job interview, take a driving test, travel... they will be places where I will not be and I cannot step in to plan their next step for them.
I would like to give them some experience to fall back on before they have to solve these dilemmas on their own. Risk builds confidence. They don't have to be big risks. Just something that was a little scary or hard to do before it happened. Please, let your kid climb up the slide if there isn't a line-up at the top waiting to come down!
My hope is that as a society we would support one another in our parenting decisions. Maybe offer up some high fives when we break a few parenting rules for the purpose of boosting our children's spirits. And help each other raise some really terrific kids.
This post originally appeared on Sarah On Purpose
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