When I learned how to ride a bike I never used training wheels. Never. I learned to ride that red Schwinn bike by myself… and when I did… the world opened up. Yes I scraped the hell out of my knees. But I never used the training wheels. Maybe it’s been staring me in the face all along. Or maybe it’s the fact that my kid just turned ten and we see her growing up before our eyes… This week I can honestly say I dabbled in some hover-free parenting. Is it free range? I don’t know. By hover-free I mean… the way WE grew up.. without me hovering over my kid’s every move. Three minor leaps happened this week that made me realize maybe it’s time to end my hovering.
Number one: Our daughter took the dog for a walk alone. Yes I know some people are laughing at this one right now. But even though we live in a small town, it’s a very busy street and only a few miles from downtown LA one of the biggest cities on the planet. I work in the news business and see a steady diet of near kidnaps and hit & runs… It’s hard to let go and trust she’ll come home safe. I KNOW she’s not getting into someone’s car. I know she’s smart and understands stranger danger. So WHY did it take so long for us to finally say yes. She walked the dog just for the block near our house to start. She came home safe. She did fine.
Number two: She paid the pizza guy by herself. Again, I trusted she wasn’t going to be the victim of a home invasion and yes even though I was nearby… she did it all on her own. The guy came and she greeted him with the cash and tip. She wasn’t attacked. We all had pizza for dinner. She did fine.
Number three and perhaps most important. I took our kids to the beach this week during their spring break. We set up our towel and went right in. I stayed with both girls in the water for a while until the little one wanted to dig for a buried treasure. I tried to get the older one out of the water and then it dawned on me.. WHY. She is an advanced swimmer. She does laps with ease. She’s not going to drown. So I stayed on shore and I let her go. And go she did. She swam like a fish. And she boogie boarded. She was always within sight and close to shore so I could run in if needed. She’d wave to me and I’d wave to her. And I saw freedom in her eyes. Freedom to make her own decisions. She did fine. And she came home so excited to tell her mom that she had done it on her own.
It’s almost like for one weekend she had the childhood I had for my ENTIRE childhood… without my parents hovering over our every move. We walked to elementary school. We stopped by the store on the way home for a snack. We took the shortcut through the neighbor’s yard to get to our friends’ houses. We often arrived home before our parents and grabbed the secret back door key hidden into the curtain of the back porch. We survived just fine. Yes I never used training wheels when I learned to ride that red Schwinn bike. Yes I skinned the hell out of my knees. But I learned without the training wheels. WITHOUT them. Without them.
Maybe it’s finally so clear to me… crystal clear… that it’s time for us to take the training wheels off our kids’ childhood.