Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Extending the Leash

It's a sad fact of life that childhood just isn't what it used to be. My confrontation on the school yard last week with the overzealous woman that told my son he couldn't make a snow angel "because he might get wet" is just one of many examples. Another scolded me yesterday for standing across the field from my five year old niece as she made her own team of team angels. She was clearly in sight but not within arms reach. The poor teacher just couldn't phathom that she would be ok. "She's not safe!" he exclaimed. He nearly had an aneurysm when I popped through the double doors to hand something to Jonas' teacher who was a mere 20 feet futher away. He actually tried to bring her inside to me, but didn't have a chance because a) I was only inside for about 13 seconds, and b) she wouldn`t go with him because he was a stranger. ;)

I understand that these people only want the kids to be safe, but I have to ask: from what and at what price? What the heck is wrong with people today?? We walked to school by ourselves by Grade Three and, I don't know about you, but on non-school days, my brother and I were thrown out of the house right after breakfast and told not to come back until lunch. After lunch we had to be home for dinner, and after dinner, it was "Come home when the street lights come on."  It's pretty common memory for the kids of my generation but it's just not like that these days. Acceptable risk now means zero risk. Our society has become afraid to let kids do anything that could possibly have a negative outcome, no matter how remote or tiny the risk. We don't trust anybody, and skinned knees and scraped elbows are just not acceptable anymore.

Today I walked the ledge again, and chanced having CAS sicked on me.

Since the school year started, I've been letting the boys, both seven, walk a block ahead of us on the way to school. If they don't do it before they cross the one tiny street (lined with stop signs) that they get to tackle on their own, I remind them to stop and look all ways. I'm not very far away at all. I can see them and they can see and hear me. In fact, they turn around every minute or two to make sure I'm still there. It's very cute.

How far is too far?
When they told their friend's mom about their adventure this morning, she looked at me like I had three heads and gave me an incredulous "WHAT?!" Of course, they said they walked to school by themselves. After I clarified what really happened, and explained that they didn't cross the major streets on their own, and that they were only one block ahead of me, she shook her head and said "But what if something happened?!" When I countered with "Like what?" she was speechless, clearly stunned that I could ask such a stupid, self-evident question.

It's not like I let them go to school on their own, and it's not as if I let the five year old cross the street by herself. She walks with me, although I am a rebel and don't make her hold my hand when we cross anymore, at least not most of the time. ;)  I didn't just throw them out onto the middle of the highway. We're in a quiet neighborhood and we've been walking to school together- learning how to do it safely - for three and a half years. They know what their boundaries are and they know the rules. They're only seven and five though, and Jonas is very impulsive. That's why they use the buddy system AND why I'm right behind them. They take this responsibility very seriously.

They're smart kids and they're good kids. They crave responsibility and trust. We dole it out in small doses as they are ready, taking baby steps until they're fully old enough and ready for more. That's what parenting is supposed to be about, isn't it?  You can see their self-confidence blossom when they do a great job. It makes me proud of them, but more importantly, it makes them proud of themselves!


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