Friday, April 9, 2010

Loosening the apron strings

I like to think of myself as a 'trainee free range parent' . I believe whole heartedly in the concept, but my kids are still too young to be given total free range. Except for my oldest son. He is just beginning his journey of independence.

Tonight he has his first slumber birthday party at a friend's house. It is at the home of his joey scout leader, so we are confident he is in responsible hands. However, this afternoon as I was driving him to the party, we saw all his fellow party goers riding down the street on their bikes (sans helmets) and nowhere near home. Alarm bells shrilled in my head! Would he be joining them after I'd left!? How did I feel about this? Living on a fairly busy and narrow road, he isn't used to being allowed to ride unaccompanied by one of us, and bike rides are usually in the park near home, not on the road. He is afterall, only seven years old.

While my brain was in its familiar 'divert panic' mode, I quickly used the opportunity to remind my son about making safe choices. Thankfully, he is switched on and mature enough to understand what I was suggesting. I reminded him that he wasn't allowed on his bike without his helmet (this is afterall, a legal requirement), and that he needed to make sure that he was comfortable with what was happening around him. If he wasn't, then he needed to tell someone, and to stop whatever the activity might be. I trust him, and I know that he has a good head on his shoulders.

Thankfully when we arrived at the party house, the boys had all returned from their jaunt, and were happy just to be together to play. I'm not sure what will happen this afternoon, and I was in two minds on the way home. Worried that he would be doing something I might not necessarily have let him done, and if that was the case, would he be ok? But also satisfied that I have raised a boy who is smart enough to know right from wrong.

There comes a time in a child's life when it is necessary to let them choose their destiny. I know that I am definitely not a 'helicopter parent' , but am I as free range as I want to be? This afternoon is a test for both of us. Can I loosen those apron strings enough to allow him the opportunity to put those safe choices into action? Can I be comfortable with my choice to let him go to this party? And will he rise to the challenge of being the responsible and smart little boy I have raised? My gut feeling is, yes.

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