Friday, July 22, 2016

Loosening Up the Reins

There's a feeling I get every time I let one of my kids do something on their own when it's right on the edge of my comfort zone. It's like a little shot of adrenaline mixed with anxiety. 

Not sadness though: I try to encourage my kids to be independent even when it's scary (for me and/or them), and even when it makes me a little sad that they're not babies or toddlers anymore. I do worry, however, that sometimes my judgment is off.

Like here when I let Isaac, who is 5 and a half, go down to the lobby of a big hotel in Denver, buy a cup of tea at Starbucks, and deliver it back to me on the fourth floor all by himself.

The moment I suggested this excursion, I was sorry I did. Isaac's face lit up, and he began frantically putting on his clothes and shoes. But now I wasn't so sure it was a good idea. What if he got lost or spoke to a shady stranger? Then everyone would tell me I shouldn't have let him go. They would think I'm a bad mom who got what she deserved.

If I rescinded the offer now, though, Isaac would feel babied and disempowered, like I didn't trust him and lacked faith in him. Which is the last thing the baby of the family needs. 

I decided to prioritize Isaac's sense of self over the rather remote possibility of catastrophe and ensuing public shaming of my parenting. I let him go. 

He came back five minutes later with tea and change from a $5, and he was pretty stoked with himself. It was worth the five minutes of anxiety as I wondered whether he was really up to the task of this transaction; one which required him to push the right button for lobby, navigate the lobby, find and stand in a line at a Starbucks, order tea, find the elevator again, and push the 4. 

It's not some epic adventure of course, but I felt like it was a lot to handle for a kid his age and wondered if I would live to regret this parental leap of faith.

But he was so insistent, I let him. I knew it wasn't really about going to get the tea. He was begging me to believe in him, and to trust his abilities. As it turned out, we both felt good when I did.

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