Hovering a little less; a child’s first step toward limited independence

A few short months ago, I was still hovering at a distance. Like all parents, I hovered when they were babies, toddlers and preschoolers, all the way to school-age. I continued to hover when they turned 7 and 4, although by then I was thinking about independence and freedom a little more often. Letting the school look after a child for several hours a day allows you to stop hovering for a bit yet you can rest assured the hovering continues by someone else in your absence. And now they’re in grade school and at age 9 and almost 7 I find myself still hovering. Except…it doesn’t really feel the same anymore. I don’t have that pressing need to be on constant high alert all the time the way I was when they were maniacs toddlers. I have stepped back a bit, allowed them to make messes or mistakes more often, and then explained patiently how to address the consequences of those messes and mistakes. (I lie shamelessly on this blog. Patient explanations? lol. THERE IS USUALLY AT LEAST SOME YELLING INVOLVED… Ha.)

The point is, hovering is exhausting. I only still do it because they still invite me along.

Ok, that’s another lie. I still do it because it is my nature, and habit, to hover. It’s the times, the circumstances, the geographical location where we live as to why I hover. I live in a city with more than two and a half million inhabitants, I want to hover. I’m not really ready to let them be on their own completely, particularly the older one. (The younger one is still ‘legally obligated to be hovered over at all times’, so that point is moot with her.)

But my 9 year old still likes it when I pick him up or attend his games or hang around while he whacks a ball with a stick. He likes it when family takes part in his life and this is a good thing. Who knows how much longer that will last…

Still, it preoccupies me, this hovering. Here we are hop-scotching along in the journey of life and many, many things have occurred in the past few months that have helped propel us toward a little more independence. The reasons are varied: he’s getting older, he’s changing schools, he’s taking a bus to the new school. Sometimes it’s not about him though; I don’t always feel ready to leave the house by ten after 8 am when he needs to be on his way so he won’t miss the bus.

We talked a lot about attempting to do things on their own over the past couple of years. The dialogue was important because the kids pick up a lot of mixed messages about when the right time to do certain things is supposed to happen. Different parenting philosophies influence how their friends are doing things, school objectives impart their opinions, even contrasting viewpoints amongst parents and other family members affect the child’s reaction to certain behaviours or actions. I come across blog posts and facebook comments on this exact topic all the time. The hovering parents discuss with the internet their hovering in great and varied detail.

But we have begun a different way of life around here at casa Javaline this September. With the flurry of back-to-school mostly over, freshly printed school and activity calendars posted on the wall, and new routines established I feel that good things are happening. This is partly because we all reached a level of comfort that is like a new normal. A ‘new normal’ is probably a very contemporary and overused term these days, but it fits here into my own particular circumstances. Our family is no longer as obsessed controlled by every miniscule thing the kids are doing to the point that we have to abandon our own stuff and accompany them every step they take. Most importantly, I feel like the shift also happened between us parenting adults, too. DH has finally allowed himself to ‘let them go’ a bit more than before. I am happy, and proud, that he can trust both my judgement that the boy is ready, and the boy’s judgement to handle this newly acquired, if somewhat limited, freedom. It took him longer to get to this place, but we are a united force here. It was Ben’s dad who made the executive decision to send him to the baseball tryouts at the local park five minutes from the house by himself. And this after adamant opposition at the idea to allow him to walk to school on his own when he starts grade 4.

It’s big, this point of going someplace alone. Ben wasn’t thrilled with the idea the first time we (well, I) mentioned it, and over time, pointing out other older children walking to school or a friend’s house, he started becoming more aware of this possibility. I believe that a combination of seeing other same-aged kids walking together to someplace as well as continued conversations with me prompted him to feel ready. And more importantly, we parents felt ready too. It’s kind of liberating for all of us to reach this milestone simultaneously: the boy who walks to school on his own, the parent (me) who stands on the porch and waves goodbye.

Just like my mom used to do with me.

This week marks another big milestone in my oldest child’s life. A milestone that he reached with similar determination as a baby exhibits prior to taking his first step. But there is a key difference in achieving this particular milestone: he had to overcome his own initial hesitation, navigate the confusing messages he accumulated over time from school, parents and other people, and finally reach a level of confidence that this is a normal, natural next step. A baby doesn’t have to think like this before learning how to walk: he simply tries to take a step, and if he falls and cries, some loving arms will be there to pick him up, hug him tight, and set him down to try again.

My arms will still embrace my boy when he returns from school, but if he falls on the way to school without me there, he will have to figure it out on his own.

I am confident he can, and will.

We have turned a corner.

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One thought on “Hovering a little less; a child’s first step toward limited independence

  1. We are also trying this this fall – at the push of my middle daughter. She asked for a watch for her birthday (which was on the weekend) so she could stay and play afterschool on her own, then walk home alone. I find myself fretting about it constantly but I’m sure over time I will get more comfortable with it – she certainly is. It’s so hard to let them go, but so important too (I keep reminding myself).

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