10/10/2013 12:18 EDT | Updated 12/10/2013 05:12 EST

Letting My Daughter Walk Home Alone for the First Time - Ack!

The day my world ended...otherwise known as the day my baby walked home from school alone.

About the time kids turn two, they begin clamouring for their independence. I remember when each of my kids turned 18 months I was suddenly not allowed to pick out clothes for them any more (of course, secretly I wished they wore signs that said "I pick out my own clothes" but that's another story). This was actually an easy milestone for me, since I figured that they have so little control over their own choices, I can of course let them pick out their own wardrobes.

Fast forward to the pre-teen years and letting them have their independence takes on a whole new meaning. All of a sudden they want to strike out on their own -- and now I find myself trying to find a new way to keep involved while at the same time letting them find their own ways. And honestly? Sometimes I am utterly failing.

Is this is the crux of parenting? Figuring out how not to be a helicopter parent while still being completely supportive and involved in your children's lives?

My oldest is in sixth grade and one day a couple of weeks ago I showed up at school to pick her up and she said: "I'm going to walk home alone with Cathy."

My first reaction was: OK, great, less driving for me and more time for errands! Then it hit me: she was walking home alone! But there are cars and strangers and scary things out there. Was she going to be OK? Did I give her enough 'stranger danger' education for her to know what to do? What if something happened to her? What would I do then?

No, I did not secretly follow her and her friend home and spy on them (though the thought did cross my mind). In fact, I played it cool and then later when I saw her, she said she felt so good about the responsibility she had been given by my allowing her to walk home alone. She was so proud of herself, which made all my worrying and pacing totally worth it.

Child psychologists claim that overall, parents of our generation don't give their children enough responsibility and independence. Then those same kids grow up and go out into the big, bad world completely unable to make decisions for themselves. I have had this debate with other moms a lot, because all I want to do is make sure my kids don't get hurt. But that is just slightly unrealistic, isn't it?

Our job as parents is to be there, fully supporting them in all their decisions good, bad and stupid. To be there when they come home to cry on our shoulder, never saying "I told you so" and allowing them to become independent beings hopefully with some strong values they may have picked up along the way.

What do you think? Should we cushion the blow more or less than we already do?

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