There has been a lot of talk in the past few years about Free Range Parenting vs. Helicopter Parenting. I’ve never denied that I am a bit of a hoverer, of the helicopter variety. Last week I thought a lot about giving up some control, and it was time to start walking the walk.
When I read that Lenore Skenazy let her 9 year old son ride the subway and bus home alone from Bloomingdale’s in New York City in 2008, I was shocked and mortified. I could not believe that a mother would do that to her child. “Aren’t the streets of NYC incredibly dangerous? He isn’t old enough to fight off a predator! How could she live with herself if something awful happened to her child?” were questions that raced through my brain.
I understand her argument, and I honestly agree with some of what she is saying. I know I can’t take care of everything for my son forever and I don’t want to. I want him to be self-reliant. I want him to know that he is highly capable of making things happen for himself. I want to trust him with his own life, but deep in my heart I kind of feel like it is my job to protect that life.
My son is almost ten. He doesn’t stay home by himself, he doesn’t walk home from the bus after school and he doesn’t have a “come home when the street lights come on” curfew. He has a mother that hovers and asks him 500 times a day if he is okay. When I was brutally honest with myself, I knew I had to start making changes. I had to start teaching him to be self-reliant.
This last weekend my business partner Clare and I had a booth at KidFest NW promoting our new community and online magazine for single parents. It was also my weekend with Christian. Honestly, I thought of getting a babysitter. Then I realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me to give him a little freedom and to show me how responsible he is.
While at the trade show, I left Christian run free. He had the greatest weekend of his life. He made friends, he rode go-karts, he jumped on a massive trampoline (after bringing me the release waiver to sign) and he discovered a truck full of video games. He also checked in with me on a regular basis, he found his own way to the restrooms and he didn’t get kidnapped or hurt.
I couldn’t be more proud of him. I didn’t worry as much as I thought I would, especially after the first few times he checked in with me. I was also proud of his dad and myself. It was a testament that we were doing something right. I am not quite ready to let him ride on the city bus alone, or leave him by himself for hours, but I know that we are on the right track now.
About Brooke Billings
Brooke Billings is a single mom of an awesome 9 year old boy navigating the worlds of parenthood, dating, working and writing. Brooke is the Editor in Chief and Co-Creator of ModernSingleParents.net. You can contact Brooke at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and follower her on twitter @brookeb4