We recently moved to a very family-friendly neighborhood, which also happens to be a military housing neighborhood. This move has given us the opportunity to live in an ideal setting to take the risk of raising independent children. My kids are ages 8, 6 ¾ (it’s important to him to remember the ¾), and 4, which to me are ideal ages to risk the lessons of becoming an independent child.
My kids are learning the importance of being accountable for themselves. No one else can answer for the choices they make. This accountability is teaching them to think through their choices first, act second. They are testing their nerve and finding out how far they are willing to push themselves, whether it’s the speed they ride their bikes or how high they climb a tree. With that test of nerve I believe they will gain self-confidence as they realize they can do new things because they pushed themselves, not because Mom or Dad told them to try it. They are building a frame of reference on rights and wrongs. They are getting better acquainted with their morals and listening to their own conscience instead of Mom and Dad’s voice.
Certainly there are risks involved with those lessons. My kids might be rude or unkind… or someone else may be rude and unkind to them. They may choose to hurt another child… another child may choose to hurt them. Knees may get skinned, feelings may get hurt. All of which could have been avoided if I had been right there and intervened. Risks may be risky. But sometimes risks may also be worth it.
Of course, I want my children to be kind and gentle with others. And of course, I will continue to teach them as they make mistakes and encourage them when they make good choices. That’s the beauty of this neighborhood we live in… All the while they are testing and learning, I am able to eavesdrop from my kitchen window or watch from our back patio, but they do not know that they are in my periphery. While they choose how to speak and act with their friends, my neighborhood moms are eavesdropping and keeping them in their periphery too. They do not know that us moms are texting each other all day long. We are close enough to be aware, but far enough to let them be independent.
So here we are. In a neighborhood where bikes are strewn about the lawn, helmets are piled on any given doorstep, and the playgrounds are actually grounds on which kids play. In a neighborhood where the parents keep an eye on whichever child happens to be within their line of sight. In a neighborhood where children are allowed to work out their problems with each other. In a neighborhood where kids can make mistakes and learn from making those mistakes instead of learning from an adult telling them not to do something. In this day and age of “tiger moms” and “helicopter moms” and maybe even “tigercopter” moms, I feel pretty lucky to live in a place where it is safe to raise independent children.