This weekend our oldest daughter joined the Girl Scouts by indoctrination at the annual Mall Lock-in. The event involves hundreds of Girl Scouts and their leaders as they spend the night in the local mall (a girl’s dream, right?). There is a DJ, photo booth, dancing, contests, 2 of the local colleges had activities and cheerleaders to entertain the girls, some of the stores were open for shopping and you could even sleep if you wanted to. There was a 2 a.m. pick up option or a 5:30 am. pick up option; figuring if we were going to do…we’d DO IT…5:30 a.m. it was. The girl had a blast. Made new friends. Shopped. Danced. Played games. And didn’t sleep. It was an event that was out of our comfort zone, however, we could see it as a growing experience and an opportunity to spread her wings. They all have to at some point and we all have our way of going about it in this parenting game.
A while back I read this article about a family in New York as they documented letting their young son navigate the Subway system solo. I swear I got angina just reading it and you can, too…written by Lenore Skenazy, NY Sun article. However, after I processed what I read, I realized we ALL parent differently. I am a suburban beach girl, through and through. My visit to a real-deal CITY gives me neck pain because I can’t stop craning my neck (so touristy, I know–can’t help it) in awe and amazement at the buildings towering all around me. The Subway gave me palpitations, I was certain we’d get lost. It’s not what I am used to and my internal GPS is seriously flawed, just ask my Hubby. This family, however, IS used to it. Their son is used to it. His managing the subway is a critical skill he’ll need and the sooner he masters it, the better he’ll be at getting around in HIS city. Knowing how to get home is a skill we ALL need.
Our children have their own privileges for getting around our town. And some of my friends shudder at what we allow them to do. Bicycling for hours with friends. Bus system to get across 3 towns over to skateboard all day. It comes with time. We’ve set the foundation. Taught them how to find their way around town with landmarks, street signs, etc. Hubby rode the bus with our oldest son to show him how to navigate the terminal, bus changes and taught him how to read the map and learn the stops. It’s nerve-wracking and yet it makes them amazingly independent, self-sufficient and more responsible as these are privileges not a God-given right. As our girls get older, I am certain their privileges will be different from the boys, but they will eventually spread their wings as well. It won’t be any less gut-wrenching.
We can all go insane with the what-ifs and the what-abouts and the reality is those scenarios will ALWAYS be there regardless of city, suburbia or country. Danger is everywhere. All you have to do is open the paper or the internet. Every time I do I want to erect a compound that is self-sufficient and never leave or let my children leave. Then reality hits. God has given us these children, HIS children, on loan and it’s a huge responsibility to bear. One we don’t fully understand until our children become less dependent on us. Our job as parents is to do what we can to protect our children, physically, mentally, spiritually. They do grow up. Each child can manage responsibility differently and knowledge is power. We can’t live in fear. Helicoptering them does them no favors now or later.
Raise up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
As parents we have to strike a balance between helicopter parenting and zero supervision. It’s so hard. Helicoptering makes it easy because we are the adults and life experience helps us to just DO IT ALL for our kids. It’s easier for us to just do it, unfortunately they learn nothing from it, other than mom/dad will do it. Zero supervision is sink or swim. Some kids make it out OK, but it’s a tough road, fraught with LOTS of bumps and bruises. Kids need example. Regardless of which end of the spectrum we fall in, or somewhere in between, we are setting AN example. It’s a constant battle within myself to remember that the example I give them now molds them into the adults they will be later.
Kids need to learn responsibility, be allowed to fall and learn from their mistakes. We set the foundation. Feed it to them a little at a time. Sometimes it means stepping out of our comfort zone and trusting that foundation will be solid and help them step up into maturity. One example and lesson at a time.
Parenting. Sure isn’t for sissies, is it?
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Chinese proverb