April 24, 2008

HOVERING

Just this morning, I was thinking about that mom who got arrested for leaving her child in the car while she put money in the Salvation Army bin. I watched a mom strap her kid into the car at Walmart, take her groceries out of her cart, and then leave the cart right in the middle of the parking lot instead of pushing it to one of the cart corrals. I hate when people do this! But I got to thinking, would she get in trouble for leaving her child unattended as she put her cart away? That's the same distance as it was to the Salvation Army bin.

I seriously thought about this all day, about moms who don't stray from child's side. I thought a lot about my own childhood, and about CaliValleyGirl's (she should regale you with tales of her childhood independence), and about leaving a child alone in the car for a few moments.

So I was fascinated to find this article this evening:

Would you let your fourth-grader ride public transportation without an adult? Probably not. Still, when Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun, wrote about letting her son take the subway alone to get back to her Manhattan home from a department store on the Upper East Side, she didn't expect to get hit with a tsunami of criticism from readers.

"Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence," Skenazy wrote on April 4 in the New York Sun. "Long story longer: Half the people I've told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It's not. It's debilitating—for us and for them."

I honestly think it's cool that she let her kid ride the subway. I was only a little older than he when I rode my bike to school, an event which I immortalized when I previously wrote about letting kids have freedom:

On my last day of fifth grade, my mom let me ride my bike to school. Some of my friends who lived closer to the school got to ride their bikes often, but we lived in a neighborhood that was further away and so I was a bus-riding kid. (Oh, and every day my brother and I walked down the street to the bus stop and waited alone.) But finally my mom said I was old enough to earn the right to ride my bike to school. I just google mapped it, and it seems I rode roughly two miles. And I felt SO COOL. I was one of the big kids now. I was independent. I had Done Something Awesome. And without a helmet.

My mom and I talked about that not too long ago. She says looking back she can't believe all the parents let their kids ride bikes to school. And she's not sure she'd let me do it today. Even she has a hard time remembering when cartoon characters didn't need helmets.

I needed to ride that bike to school. Heck, I still remember it. As a crowning achievement, as a milestone, as a step on the way to Growing Up. The thing that scares me is wondering if I will be able to let my kids take those steps too.

The Newsweek article says this:

Back in 1972, when many of today's parents were kids, 87 percent of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked every day. But today, the Centers for Disease Control report that only 13 percent of children bike, walk or otherwise get themselves to school.

My husband is pretty adamant that we won't be driving our kid to his bus stop. And likely we won't have to; the local bus stop seems to stop every 100 feet to let a new kid out right in front of his house. We want to have a relaxed and groovy approach to parenting. (Ha, the last thing Sarah is is relaxed and groovy.)

Of course, these feelings are all theoretical. I want to be a cool, independence-fostering mom. But I've also been plagued by hovering thoughts.

I know a couple, they tried for eight years to have their daughter. She was born dangerously premature, and she ended up being their only child. She's now 30, and when I think about how hard it was for them to have this child, I wonder how they ever let her leave the house. How did they let her ride a bike or start driving or go to college? How did they ever let her out of their sight? She was irreplaceable. Literally.

Since having a baby has proven so hard, I can imagine it will be even harder to let my kid become independent. I will have to really work at not smothering the kid.

I will have to remind myself how I felt when I rode that bike to school. My kid needs to feel that too.

UPDATE:

Oh good heavens: I Left My Son in San Francisco.

Posted by: Sarah at 12:29 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
Post contains 862 words, total size 5 kb.

1 I know a couple, dear friends, who had never thought to get pregnant, thought it wasn't possible, who after 15 years of marriage were surprised with a wonderful baby girl. They were (and are) such good parents. You would have thought they too would be hoverers, they were not. They were both former school teachers, well grounded with being around many nieces and nephews and knew the value of raising a child who could, and did, become an independent person. This child received her MA last year, secure in her self, with an independent way of thinking no hovered over child could ever have attained. I often wonder what will become of those children whose mommy's, and it is usually mommies, have deprived them of being an independent person. By the time you have yours you will have had enough time to figure out how you want to do it, but it never turns out exactly like we think it will.

Posted by: Ruth H at April 24, 2008 03:12 PM (hBAQy)

2 I hover more than I thought I would, but it's also child specific. The boy, just yesterday, tried to jump off our upstairs porch. He was actually indignant when AFG spanked his butt in front of God and Everyone. So I won't let him so much as outside without another kid I know to be a tattletale. The #3 girl, I'd leave her home for a weekend NOW, and she's only 7. She's just uber capable. She did her own laundry last week. Sorted the reds and pinks out and everything. But #2... Yeah. She forgets to put her socks on before her shoes. And although I know she has to learn, it's rather hard to let her do things on herself when I know that common sense isn't her strong point. You just can't predict.

Posted by: airforcewife at April 24, 2008 04:46 PM (mIbWn)

3 I obviously live under a rock because I had not read that story about the mom who left her daughter in the car. I have done similar things myself with my kid sleeping in the backseat. It's hard to wake a sleeping little one. Not hovering, though, is tough, and my daughter is still quite small and needs a fair amount of that yet. I'm not sure how I'll do when she's bigger. I have quite a vivid imagination and can tell you in nightmarish detail my worst case scenarios. I hope I will be able to put my fears aside, what sometimes helps is watching her assert her growing independence. What's always amazing to me is how different each mother's "hovering standard" is. I know people view me alternately as careless (I allow her to play in our fenced backyard in her sandbox alone for a few minutes) or overprotective (I am one of those moms who doesn't want to let her more than about 10 ft from me on a public playground). The biggest thing I think I've learned about being a parent is that you just have to do what's best for you and your child. Everybody's got an different opinion on what's best.

Posted by: dutchgirl at April 24, 2008 04:56 PM (+usWx)

4 If I can suck it up and let go of my AF boy (man), you will have no problem raising a free thinking independent child like yourself.

Posted by: Vonn at April 24, 2008 05:01 PM (gNLi0)

5 For the love of mike, that kids folks are *still* paying his rent and for his groceries. She filled out his college applications and wrote his essay for him? No wonder he screwed up. Trust me the helicopter thing is backfiring big time on these kids. Companies don't want to hire them. And in this economy that is not a good thing. Sure they can pay them less, but they'd rather have someone more responsible who they know is going to show up and do the job. I work with a lot of young interns who don't know how to do basic stuff like cook, do laundry, or use spell check. Relaxed and groovy eh? What have you done with Sarah? J/K you guys are going to be awesome parents.

Posted by: Mare at April 25, 2008 04:35 AM (EI19G)

6 What if she got her daughter out, slipped in the sleet, cracked her head open and had to go to the hospital. And then she ended up with the flu? All of that could have been avoided if she had left her in the car!!! I was always scared to leave my girls in the car while putting up my cart, but I would put them in last. Unload the groceries, take the cart and the kid to the cart area, then carry or let the kid walk back to the car. They usually liked the extended ride in the cart. That said, I would have probably done the same as the Chicago mom.

Posted by: Amy at April 25, 2008 05:08 PM (2BV6j)

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