When I became a parent, I didn’t think about what kind of parent I would be. I might’ve been too busy nursing the baby, cleaning up blow-outs, and figuring out some sort of feeding/napping schedule.
But mostly I just jumped right in and assumed I’d raise my kids as my parents raised my sister and me. Basically, I assumed I’d do what I know.
There’s a lot on the internet about
everything parenting styles. Apparently you can be a helicopter parent. Alternatively you can raise free range children. There is attachment parenting. Toxic parenting. Authoritative parenting. Authoritarian parenting. Etc., etc.
For the record, I haven’t labeled myself (have you?). I don’t really want to, either. I’m just going to parent. I’ll do what we – my husband and I – think is best for our girls based on what worked and didn’t work in our childhoods … and hope for the best, basically.
I got to thinking lately about a parenting topic that I didn’t even consider until now because Toddler will soon be at the age when she can play outside by herself. And the topic is how much will I let my kids roam free?
I grew up in pretty quiet, very safe suburbs. There wasn’t much traffic or any scary places (except some alligator-filled lagoons when we lived in Florida, but I was old enough by then not to get too close) or even tales of scary predators (the human kind, I mean). Naturally, I grew up not worrying too much about my safety – you might call that naive, but it wasn’t in a purposely sheltered way. I guess it was a lucky sort of naive.
We didn’t have a fenced-in yard, but my parents let us play outside on our own from at least kindergarten onward. They let us take long bike rides around our neighborhood (in Wisconsin and Florida), which sometimes meant a 5-10 mile range.
(I remember one morning my sister, her best friend, and I took a long, long bike ride through an area called the Niagara Escarpments. We were gone for hours! We packed little baggies of Trix cereal and tied them to our bike handles with twist ties. No water bottles back then, though – this was circa 1992. Uphill, downhill, around … what a trip that was! I recall crying at one point because I was so tired and couldn’t keep up with the other two, who were four years older than me.)
The point is, will I let my kids do that? I already feel my stomach starting to churn just thinking about it. Boy, that was a loose leash!
I never would’ve imagined myself being overprotective. In fact, I relished being able to come and go as I pleased as a kid and always assumed my own children would happily do the same.
Yet … that makes me nervous and my oldest child isn’t even 4! Could I let her ride a bike around this neighborhood? Be responsible for her little sister?
It might just be the New Jersey influence (the is NOT the Midwest!) with its wild drivers zipping down the somewhat busy road behind our backyard. Despite us being in a relatively clean and safe county, I don’t think we have the same kind of safe setup I had as a kid.
Yet my husband tells me when he was growing up in Brooklyn he took a city bus by himself to school! He was maybe 12 at the time. Well, his mother was protective and I know she wouldn’t have taken undue risks with him, yet she still let him have that freedom and responsibility – and he turned out fine.
So I guess there’s hope for me.
Maybe it’s a matter of getting used to things slowly, by degrees. First let them play in the backyard alone. Then across the street by the pond (once they can both swim). Then on our road. Then the surrounding roads. Then a bus into NYC. (Just kidding – NO WAY they’re going into the city alone!)
Can I let them roam? We’ll wait and see. I think I need some help letting go first.
Will you let your kids roam?