Saturday, April 11, 2015

Letting Go: My Kid Plays Down The Street

children, freedom, playing, neighborhoods, family-friendly, she's a little girl, growing up, parenting

We live in a family-friendly neighborhood.

There are loads of cul-de-sacs and kids roaming freely.

Maybe way too freely, but we've decided that it's time to let our daughter roam a bit.

She's eight. Her birthday was in February, so she's not a "new" eight. But still. She's eight.

Is that too young?

She knows she isn't supposed to cross the street. So she doesn't.

She knows she can't run around the cul-de-sac like a mini-maniac. So she doesn't do that, either.

She knows our rules and she knows how to be safe and she knows we can practically hear her playing down there with the other kids.

And when her friends ring the bell - the ones who don't wear their helmets on their bikes and the ones who ride carelessly in the street - she knows we don't let her do those things.

I still get nervous letting her go.

I'm her mom. Of course I do.

But sometimes we need to let them go.

And maybe eight years old is too soon.

But maybe it's not.

And maybe the only way I'm going to be able to know for certain and feel it for sure is to give it a try. And trust that her father and I can trust her and know she'll behave appropriately and come home (easily almost every time) when we come get her.

And maybe the only way I'm going to feel okay about it is if she does it again and again. Without incident. And maybe there will be a day when something happens. She falls. Cries. Needs me. And I'll come. We'll run down the street.

Kids will be kids and all that, right?

Nobody ever told me what it would be like to watch my daughter run down the block without me and feel my heart leap out of my chest.

Imagine that feeling now - and then picture her going away to college - or moving 500 miles away.

I. Can't. Even. (Saying used with intentional purpose.)

It's rough being a mom. Rougher still watching your kids grow and sort of not need you anymore.

She doesn't NEED me outside watching her play. But I NEED to be there.

Sometimes. Or all the time.

Or when I hear a car zoom past way too quickly.

I need to see.

Make sure she's okay.

Even if she's only on the sidewalk kicking around a soccer ball just a few houses away.

And sometimes I won't see.

I'll just have to feel it.

And let her go.

Motherhood, man. Parenting. This gig is not for the faint of heart.


  1. It is so scary trying to figure out when our children are old enough for more responsibility. It sounds like you have given her the rules and that she is following them. My only advice as a mom whose kids are 25 and 23 be consistent if she doesn't follow the rules make sure that she knows the punishment before hand. I just bet she'll be fine though!

  2. My own daughter is finishing her senior year of high school, and I'm feeling a lot of this. College in the fall - is she ready for the responsibility? And, yes, we have to trust them. Harder, maybe: we have to trust ourselves, that we taught them well. Because, let's face it, when something goes wrong(which will hopefully only be very minor things!) we will blame ourselves.

  3. Man, do I feel all the emotions in this post!! Mine aren't 8 yet but I'm PARANOID to even let them be 20 feet from my reach. When I was 8, I roller skated around my neighborhood until dusk. No worries or problems. I fear that I'll never allow my kids to have the freedoms I had. And that makes me so sad.

  4. I'm still having problems with this one. My girls are 7 and 10 and they are so sweet and naive that it's hard to know that they'll know the right thing to do to stay out of harms way. Then I watch these stupid movies about kids getting abducted and sex trafficked and that makes it worse. We live on a cul de sac but all the kids play in the back yards. As long as I can look out the window and see them,I'm good. But there is a park 3 blocks away and the pool in about a 5 minute walk through the neighborhood trails but I can't see that happening anytime soon because, I'm just not ready. You go girl.

  5. Good for you! I wrote about this a few weeks ago. The world is demonstrably SAFER now than it was back when you roamed freely. Your little girl will be just fine. My big kids were allowed to walk down the street to play at that age, and to the library and the store at 10 or 12, and they have confidence in themselves because I had confidence in them.

  6. I'm not a parent, but I would like to think that if I were, I would trust my instinct. And then trust your parenting, and her judgement. You'll all be okay. :-)

  7. There is no "right" age to let them be free. It's dependent on the child and their maturity. My son played outside with limited supervision when he was 6. My daughter, however, didn't do so until she was 9. She was much more clingy and trusting of others, so I kept her closer longer. You're a great parent, so I know you know your child better than anyone else. :-)

  8. My two girls are now 15 and 11 and remember all too well those feelings. I have always taught independence in all things they do but this time it was a inner battle with self to allow them to grow and be independent. We struggle with it more than they do.

  9. It is such a struggle and you captured it beautifully. I have a hard time - when my daughter started riding her bike to school alone a couple years ago (now 9) I would sometimes drive to the school later that morning to make sure that her bike was there. It was hard for me but I know it's such an important part of growing up to be put in positions where you have to make decisions for yourself.
    It's such a personal decision and I wouldn't judge a parent for making it much earlier or later than I did. That's why I get frustrated by the original CPS/nosy neighbor story. So many children are truly endangered in their living situations, I wish they would focus on those cases instead.
    -Signed: The mom who would like to go to the park with her kids until they're 18 but loves that other moms don't. :)

  10. I wrestle with this too. My teenager is very independent and smart so I know he is capable of doing many things on his own.

    But every now and then I still get that twinge and wonder if he is being smart.

    Nevertheless I won't cripple my children by never giving them the chance to do something on their own.


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