The news is full of stories these days about umbrella and helicopter parenting. Parents who stay too close, who don’t cut the umbilical cord, who don’t let kids do things for themselves and who hover and watch over them like a hawk. It gets to extremes when you have parents doing everything for kids in their teens and 20s (writing college applications, calling employers about jobs) but when they’re young, there’s still a lot of talk about kids not being allowed to play outside like they used to or even walk to school like they did in the past.
It’s really no wonder when you look at all of the other stories on the news – shootings, abuse, drunk drivers and the most innocent-seeming people committing horrible crimes. After all, it’s our job to keep these little people safe. We’ve heard about so many terrible things that it’s virtually impossible to ignore the “what ifs” that enter your brain when you’re making decisions concerning your kids.
I’ve realized lately that this is especially true at the age of six. Six, to me, seems to be a pivotal age when it comes to increased independence. They’re still very young and obviously need a lot of parental guidance, however the opportunities that are presented to them and many of the skills they’ve developed allow for increased freedom.
It started a few weeks ago on the ski hill. I was picking my husband and our six year old up and he asked me to meet him at the top of the bunny hill. I noticed him coming up from the lodge alone and when I asked where she was, he pointed to the hill. There she was, going up and down and backwards, having a blast skiing alone on the bunny hill. My first thought was, “oh my gosh you left her by herself,” but before the words came out, I realized she was fine and just so happy to have been allowed to do it.
These kinds of opportunities just keep presenting themselves. After a year of having an adult meet her at the primary door every day, she’s now walking with a friend and being met part way home. She went to her first sleepover at a friend’s place this weekend and had an absolute blast. In this case, we did know the parents really well so we were confident in that, but we also didn’t call to see how she was doing and just let her do her own thing for the evening (and she was thrilled).
The inspiration for this blog came just yesterday as all five of us were enjoying a family swim at a local pool. Our daughter happened to run into a few girls from school at the pool and was beyond excited to see them there. She’s a good little swimmer and suddenly she was off playing mermaid and hanging out with her friends. I’d see her in the big pool one minute, up the slide the next, on the diving board the next and back in the kid pool after that. As my husband and I stayed close to our two and four year olds, I must admit that my heart was racing knowing we were giving her the freedom to be anywhere she wanted in a 1)packed and 2) pool. It would have been so easy to tell her that she needed to stay close to us in the little pool.
There’s no doubt that it ranks up there as one of the longest hours of my life. As I played with our other kids and continuously scoured the pools for her with my eagle eyes, I realized how much of the situation (and every situation where we’re giving her just a little more freedom) is about me – my ‘what ifs’, my worries, my lack of control. There’s no doubt that our number one priority is to keep her safe. With that being said, there’s a new balance that we have to figure out and I’m realizing that sometimes what’s hardest on my head, is the best thing for hers.
Deanna is a Mom of three, wife, marketer and blogger – lover of travel, morning coffee, family time, belly laughs, good friends and uninterrupted showers! Follow her on twitter @DeannaCMiller