And then there's the whole, "hell no - I'm not going to let my 4yo play in the backyard by himself - something might happen!!!. No way am I going to allow my 7yo to ride his bike to the park with his 7yo friend - someone might abduct him! No my 4yo can not use a knife - he'll cut off his arm!" mentality. This fear that many of us have of letting our kids just go and do those things that we ourselves used to do when we were children.
Did you know that this past Saturday, May 19th, was the third annual international “Take Our Children to the Park…And Leave Them There Day” (TOCTTPALTT). Yes, that's right. Take your child (ages 7 and up, please), to the park AND LEAVE HIM THERE. WITHOUT YOU. And, yes, I did need to YELL that part because I'm pretty sure most of you - like me at first - are confused and also probably are thinking, "surely that is not what the social worker just said.
And yet, it is.
Lately, I find myself challenged with all those beliefs. I have all those same worries you do, but here's what I know from my experience as a social worker. Most any accident that might happen to him in the backyard, are going to happen whether I'm 3ft from him, or 15ft inside the house (for example, a child recently died from a simple fall off a swing in her backyard. Her parents were right there). In more than 12yrs as a social worker, I have never - I repeat never - heard of a child being abused in any way (sexually, being abducted, etc...) in a public restroom by a stranger. Also, I don't know any preschooler who has cut his arm off with a knife.
There is this urban myth, you might say, that tells us as mamas that if we're right there with our children, we can protect them. We hold tight because we want them to be safe (of course we do!). We don't let them go in the backyard by themselves. We don't let them walk the block and a half to a friend's house. We take them into the women's bathroom with us until they're 10. All because we want them to be safe. Which is, of course, our job.
But what are we teaching our children? What am I teaching my children?
I'd suggest that what that these things actually do is teach my child that I don't believe he is capable. Because if I don't trust him to do (x, y, or z), then how is he to trust his ability to do it himself. I suggest that what I'm also teaching him is that the world is a big and scary place, one where he is not safe. And neither of those are believes I want my child to hold. That is not how I want my child to approach the world - believing that he's not capable of handling himself in the big scary world.
So, what's a mama to do?
Again, I go back to my experience. Which is this: Accidents happen, yes. But hoovering around my child isn't going to prevent them.
So I'm working on this. I'm working on letting go of the knot that forms when the kid wants to go into the public bathroom by himself. I'm working on not checking on him every 10minutes when he's in the backyard playing solo. I'm working on letting him cut up his own apple with a for real knife. I'm working on letting my kid be more of a Free Range Kid. And I'd love to hear what you do to help your kid be more free range, too. Or how much it stresses you out to do that. Because would make me feel better, too, lol.
Today's Lesson: Discomfort is often a sign of growth. And even mommas experience growing pains.
If you're interested in reading more about TOCTTPALTT, here ya go: http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/17/are-your-kids-safe-alone-at-the-park/#ixzz1vEMnYpaV