The kids are growing up…

I knew it was coming. As the days passed, and the kids grew older, I knew this time was coming. One day, I would no longer be required to attend parties or school events.

It starts in elementary school. In the beginning, you go with your kid to birthday parties and school activities. You relish going on field trips. Your child smiles when he sees you at the school. Or she gladly holds your hand as you walk through the zoo.

But then about second or third grade, you begin to just drop your child off at birthday parties. No longer do you have to stand awkwardly with the other parents as you watch the party games. Or if you are lucky you know some of the other parents and your time passes quickly. This stops at about the age of 7 or 8. (Maybe earlier or later depending on your child or perhaps where you live.)

During soccer practice or gymnastics, you sat through the class/practice – though sometimes that was because the practice was not long enough to leave, or it was too far to return home during that short of a time.

Throughout the elementary-school years, I have attended many after-school events with the kids from science night to art shows or choir performances. And my kids typically hung out with me at these events though sometimes as they grew older, they would venture off with friends for some or perhaps the whole time.

And then, this past year, Jase began going to middle school. There have been fewer events there, but he and I still braved an absurdly cold day in April to attend the History Fair together. But many of the other students there were with their friends and not their parents. The other parents I saw also had sixth graders. So I know what is coming…next year, I may not be coming with him at all.

And then just a few weeks later, it happened. There was a comic con at his school. Jase invited his sister to go with him. I left it up to him if he wanted me to come in with them or to just drop them off at the front door of the school. Yep, you guessed it. I wasn’t wanted. Oh, my fourth-grader wanted me to go, and in all honestly, Jase probably wouldn’t have minded.

Instead, I dropped them off at the middle school and picked them up an hour later. Jase met up with friends who are all use to Lexie joining them. (She has been tagging along since she was 4.) It felt a little odd. But now as I write this, I realize it has been coming.

For a while now, we have let the kids stay home for short times by themselves. No longer do I have to load them in the car for a quick trip to the store or to pick up a prescription. It was great to be able to run a few errands without listening to them complaining about going.

Yes, their independence is growing, and as it does, their dependence on me has lessened. A part of me is sad. Yet another part of me knew this was coming and recognizes that this is the way it has to be.

I is for Independence #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of characters. On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting, Wednesday – quotes, and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will focus on characteristics. On the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about characters from movies, TVs or books.

Funky capital I

Funky capital I

Today on the A to Z blogging challenge, the letter is I. On Mondays, I typically write about a parenting issue so for the letter I, I chose Independence – as instilling independence in your child.

Our job as parents is to love, nurture and protect our children while guiding them into become responsible adults. It is often too easy for us to want to do things for our kids rather than letting them do it themselves.

Yes, it may be faster to tie your kids’ shoelaces. But if you don’t take the time to show them how to do it themselves and let them practice (even if it takes them four times longer to do it than if you did it), then they will never learn to do it.

The same applies with chores. Children may take longer and not do as good a job as a parent, but they need to learn. And they only will learn by being given the opportunity to do it themselves.

So instead of doing it for them or jumping in to help, wait to be asked for help and then instead of doing it for them, show them how to do it.  After that stand back and let them do it. Allow them to make mistakes and figure out how to fix those mistakes. Yes, you can offer guidance but resist rushing into help or do it for them. Remember it is all in the name of letting them grow, learn and become independent.

If you missed the other days in the A to Z Challenge:

A is for Alice

B is for Belgarath 

C is for Cautious Child

D is for Dana Scully

E is for Enthusiasm (Quote) and Southwestern Eggrolls (Recipe)

F is for Flaky Character 

G is for Gandalf 

H is for Huckleberry Finn

The balancing act: Independence vs. Safety

Last week, I took the kids to the water park. Last time my husband came with us. But this time it was just me and the kids. Jase likes the water slides while his sister much
prefers playing in the area for younger kids. Jase is happy to play there too, but I know after awhile that he wants to go on the slides, so I let him go by himself because I can see the slide area from where we are.

While he was gone, I began to wonder…ok, worry…about how much freedom I really should give him. He just turned seven two months ago and this is only the second time we have been to this water park. I worried about whether he will be able to find us again. The place is busy, and I notice that many of the little boys all look the same in their wet swimsuits. How easily will he be able to find us?

After he returned to check in with us several times, I began to relax a little. Then his sister and I moved to another play area just a little farther away.  I can no longer see the slides at all. And it is back to worrying about whether he can find us. I am not worried about him drowning. Even though Jase isn’t a strong swimmer, none of the water is that deep and there are lifeguards everywhere. I am most worried about losing him. And it wasn’t so much what I would do but what he would do if he felt he was lost. Would he wait where I told him to go if he “lost” us or would he decide to wander around looking for us? Would he wander out of this area and into another part of the water park? And if so, how would I find him? Of course in this instance I didn’t have to find out as each time he came back to where we were and found us with no problem.

Last month, we went to the children’s museum and took my mother-in-law with us. We have been going to this place for at least five years, and both my kids know the layout. I don’t have the same worries here as I did at the water park. We also have an agreed meeting point (the train layout) if anyone gets separated. Here I have no problem with my 7-year-old wandering off on his own.  I just had to reassure my mother-in-law that he would be fine. Not knowing the kids, she had the urge to hover.    

I guess I am still balancing the amount of trust and independence that I should give my son. I know he needs to learn to do things for himself but also want to keep him safe. I was fine with him going in the men’s changing room by himself even though the sign said anyone under 10 should be accompanied by an adult. He refuses to go in the women’s changing room or the women’s bathroom and hasn’t for over a year. Of course when he first started going into these places by himself, I did worry about what could happen. You never know who is in there.

He attended kindergarten last year, and I walked him to and from school every day. We live in a safe neighborhood and when he is older, I will be fine with him walking by himself – but just not yet. I want to give him a sense of independence, but I also want to protect him. And so the balancing act continues as I try to give him more responsibility and try not to worry about him. (Yeah, as if that will ever happen.)