Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Giving your child independence takes baby steps
The other day, Max told me he wanted to meet some new neighbors. And I had a mini parent crisis.
We were on our porch and he was watching kids playing outside the house down the block and across the street. He pointed at them, waved and said "Hi!"
"You want to go over and say hello?" I asked.
"Yeah!" he said.
He would have needed to cross the street.
"Max, what do you do when you cross the street?" I tested him.
And he dutifully swiveled his head to the left and to the right.
Still. I worried about letting him go alone. I didn't want to stand there and watch him, as I didn't want him to feel like I wasn't confident in him, or sneak-watch him from behind some shrubs.
What to do?
Lately, Max has been acting more independently. This weekend, Dave noticed Ben's stroller sitting outside the back door.
"Did you take the stroller out of the garage?" he asked me.
"No, didn't you?" I asked.
"Nope," said Dave.
Then I realized Max wasn't in the house. That was because he'd gone down the stairs of our deck, opened the garage door with the keypad and took the stroller out—he wanted Dave to take Ben for a walk with him.
I loved it.
When we first got an alarm in our home, I remember the installer telling us that when our child was walking around (I was pregnant with Max at the time) we could set the alarm to ding whenever the front or back door opened, so we could make sure he didn't wander out on his own. For years after, when I'd go to set the alarm, that button stared me in the face. We did not have a child who was able to walk out a door, let alone open it.
Then Max walked at age 3. Last December, he opened the back door for me when I came home. And now, evidently, he could leave as he pleased.
Wasn't this a moment I'd been waiting for—Max going somewhere on his own?
Yes. Except I wasn't ready.
I compromised. Or, you could say, I wimped out. I asked Sabrina to go say hi to the new kids, too. And off she and Max went. And I headed inside the house and willed myself not to try to catch a glimpse of them from the living room window.
They came back within a couple of minutes. Almost as soon as they got to the house, the parents decided there were too many mosquitos outside and shooed the kids in. Because, you know, overprotective parents.
It's going to take baby steps. As in, mine.