If one were to choose when to give their child independence...I bet a thousand different answers would arrive. There are many views, many opinions and many labels affixed to parenting...those that let their children learn by trial and error, natural consequences is a big one, (I always think of the fire example here...if they stick their hand in the fire, it'll get burned and they'll know not to do that again!) There are the carefully calculating parents, those that have mapped out their child's life by the age of 6 months and are building a "resume" for them nearly the next day...signing them up and molding them into sculptures of paragons of good choices (in theory...because, what would the child have chosen? We will never know...) And there are the helicopter parents...those that hover and catch before the fall, those that want to be in the classroom, on the playground, on every field trip, to make sure their child is treated "fairly". (But are they defeating the purpose by being there, making sure their child gets the fair shake, when the other children do not have their advocate by their side?) Ahhh...I know I would like to be just the right balance between all of the parenting perfection. I try hard, each and every day. But some days...I have to admit, some days, I just want to throw in the towel and say, "You're on your own, sweetie!" (and yes, this is a parenting style as well!) The question being, when is it the right time to do any of these things???
I have a sixteen year old who is learning to drive...takes her road test next month. She's a good driver. Still, I cringe when she pulls into that parking spot in the Target parking lot. I try to hide it, but, my perspective is different from hers...from my seat, it looks like we're going to hit the car next to us...from her seat, she's doing just fine. Do I say something? Right now, where I'm at as a parent, I apparently cannot help myself...(catch before the fall-bonus, no damage to the car, either!) My daughter is swift to tell me this approach is not acceptable. She's right. She is on the brink of independence. I will be handing my car keys to her in a few weeks, to take this car on her own. Will I trust her? Yes. I am quick to that decision. So why the cringe? ... I'm fully aware she is capable of independence and is ready to run, fall, get back up on her own, but, apparently, I am not ready to let her go. I know she's good to go, but, just one more hug...one more minute... am I selfish? I'm nodding my head right now, "yeah, Sue, you are...you need to...I know." But...
So, independence...it is something we try to teach from early on...from potty training to driving...I am assuming it does not end with that...wink, wink. Hopefully I will not do permanent damage with my cringe, my nagging, my...love. Hopefully, someday, she'll understand ... when she's a mom herself, I suppose. I can hear her already, in her head (because I'm trying to teach her to be respectful of my feelings!) "I will never be like my mom! I am never going to __________ fill in the blank here!" And, then, I hope, she smiles and realizes, if only for a fleeting moment, why I __________ fill in the blank here!
Parenting is hard work. I remember my mom saying that to me. We'll be back on the road again, and, I have promised my daughter that I will do my very best not to cringe, yelp, slam the imaginary brake. I will do my very best. But, as a parent I know, there will be moments in my head...not because I don't trust her or believe in her, but, a selfish moment, when I long for the hug instead of the wave as she runs out the door.
I leave you with this. We share a home with my father. The four of us and Grandpa, too. One day, as we were leaving to go visit my husband's family up north, and I waved to my dad as we walked out the door, my daughter said, "I wonder what Grandpa does when we're not there...I bet he has a party! I bet he dances in the living room with Leo (our dog) and cranks up the music and has a party without us!" I smile...and I hope so... :) I'll invite you to my party when I get there!