Growing up, I had a lot of freedom. I was a latch-key kid. I was allowed to roam the neighborhood and play at friends’ houses. I was able to play outside until dark as long as it was in “earshot” of my mom’s yell from the back porch of our second-story flat. My mom asked plenty of questions, made sure we weren’t blatantly disregarding safety rules and gave us the bandwidth to grow up.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. I’m not raising tiny children forever. I’m raising these kiddos to be grown one day. They’re not going to be under my roof, my care, my watchful eye forever. It’s my responsibility to ensure that they are given responsibility and privileges that will allow them to develop at a pace that is reasonable for their maturity and capacity.
But What If…
If they get hurt, do they have the ability to handle it themselves or call for help? If they get lost do they have the tools in their toolbox to make decisions that will keep them safe until they seek help? If they get thirsty, can they wait or find a random hose to drink from? If they are approached by a stranger, do they know what to say and how to respond or seek assistance? I ask myself all of these questions and more when I give the kids a new privilege or responsibility. If the answer isn’t life threatening or extremely high probability, I weigh the risk vs. what I believe my children can handle and go with my gut.
The first time I let my kids ride their bikes about two miles to a playground, one kid dropped his water bottle along the way. They drank from the one on their way there and on the way home, were extremely thirsty and tired on a hot day. They stopped at a random house that had a hose out front and drank from it. Later on, one kid got his shoelace wrapped around his bike pedal and the bike fell over with him on it. He scrapped his knee and elbow and wasn’t too badly hurt. They took off his shoe, broke the lace free, got back on the bikes and let the wind dry the wounds. The best thing that came from this experience is how proud they were of solving their own problems.
The Public Bus
The decision to allow my older two to take the public bus came with some tiers. First, I spent a few days walking them through the app. Then I quizzed them on stops and scenarios. Then I rode with them. Eventually, I let them ride and met them on the other side. Lastly, I let them ride and stopped meeting them. They still text me when they arrive and if they are delayed. I tested the waters of how others felt about allowing kids “so young” to ride the bus unattended. It was a mixed bag of responses, but ultimately, the lessons learned in decision making and problem solving made the situation reasonable.
Gauging Privilege by Child
Each child has their own set of boundaries and privileges. What works for one may not work for all and my kids are okay with that. They have different bed times and different screen times. They have different volumes of housework they are required to do. Some can ride their bikes to the ice cream shop or bookstore. One has access to YouTube Kids and the rest do not. One kid is allowed sleepovers. A few have devices.
Ready for the Future
The one thing they all have in common is that they each have what they need to develop at the pace they are capable of. A pace that will enable them to be ready for the future that is right in front of them; because we all know they grow up just like that.