Monday, March 12, 2012

Letting Go

When it comes to parenting, I think I would say that Chris and I are somewhere in the middle. Between strict and lenient. Between over-protective and laissez-faire. There have been times when I have been horrified at what my children have been allowed to do at friends' houses, or what my kids tell me that their friends get to do (which is always taken with a grain of salt...). There have been other times when I've felt like we're horrible parents because we let our kids do something that a certain friend is not allowed to do. I'll never forget when Bethany's friend Lillian slept over one night and I gave the girls Pop Tarts for breakfast. Then Lillian told me she had never had Pop Tarts before and I told her to make sure to tell her parents they were ORGANIC!! (Yes Hilary, I let your daughter eat a Pop Tart. But truly, it was organic.). We sometimes let our kids watch PG-13 movies. We let Bethany & Connor go around the block, and sometimes they take the little girls with them (only if Mattie is in a stroller or wagon). We let Bethany walk to the corner with her friends to get a pizza. Then last week she had some friends over and they went for a walk and one of her friends was nervous because she felt she was too far from our house. I felt bad and second-guessed myself a little. But Bethany had her phone and they were only gone for about 10 minutes. In the future I will be cognizant that this particular friend is not comfortable in such a situation, but I am not going to stop letting Bethany go for walks with her friends.

There have been times, too, when my kids' friends' parents have helped push me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I've been encouraged to let Bethany cook, ride her bike to the library (Not from my house, local friends who are thinking I'm crazy right about now!), and try her hand at a little short-term babysitting. I'm sure there have been lots of other things too. Sometimes it's hard to know the time is right for something until I see that parents I know and trust are letting their kids do it. I'm not saying that I feel like we always have to follow the crowd, just that my own initial instincts might be a little more protective than is necessary.

The thing is, I don't want my kids to be terrified of everything. I want them to sometimes push themselves out of their comfort zones and learn something new. I want them to be (safely) adventurous. So it is that Chris and I are letting Bethany fly to Florida by herself to visit my brother-in-law in May. I know lots of other parents do this. One of Bethany's friends flew all the way to Oregon by himself a few years ago to visit family, and he made it intact. I reassure myself with this type of information. But I just can't imagine that I would have been remotely comfortable getting on an airplane without my mom in 5th grade. Bethany is a little nervous, but she's mostly excited, so we're going with that. As an underage flyer traveling alone, I will be allowed to take her to the gate and she will be looked after by a flight attendant. I will not quite rest easy until I get the call that she has landed safely, but Bethany is not afraid of flying and I have no doubt that she can keep herself occupied for a couple hours. Her uncle has a very exciting vacation planned for her, and I'm pretty sure he is looking forward to it just as much as she is. I'm grateful to my brother-in-law for giving her this opportunity, and that Bethany is adventurous and independent enough to do it, and that Chris and I are both willing to let her go. Because sometimes the letting go is the hardest part of being a parent.

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