Privilege and Responsibility
I had a dream last night that I had a second car to pick up, and I let my youngest daughter follow me home driving it with my son as her passenger. She is eight years old. I still plan not to let my kids drive until they are eighteen years old. Not only do I think that the extra couple of years will give them more maturity when they begin driving, but I also like the idea that if they are any sort of accident after the age of eighteen, their father and I cannot be sued, and are still able to provide for them.
So it is a little odd that I dreamt that I let my daughter drive at age eight. I believe it is due to the fact that we have been giving the kids some new privileges lately that I am not entirely comfortable with yet. We live in a very safe neighborhood, and when we severely limited the time that they were allowed to watch TV recently, we told them that they would be allowed to take walks in the neighborhood alone. We have stipulations to this privilege. They all have to stay together, and carry a phone, and they cannot be gone for more than thirty minutes. I am still adjusting though.
Freedom and responsibility are very good things for kids, and I believe that the freedoms we are starting to allow them are age appropriate and very beneficial. I think that in the long run things are probably the hardest on mom. We are the ones who need the most adjustment to change when it comes to our kids, because we have this ferocious drive to protect them. My husband’s goddaughter lunged out of her high chair and crashed into the tile face first the other day. When I heard the news, and was assured that she was okay, I panicked. Not for the baby, but for her mother. Accidents with kids, I mean, it is probably a miracle that they happen as infrequently as they do. I can remember gobs of times where we had near misses when my kids were little. It is terrifying, and every single time it happens, us mothers have a tiny heart attack. Motherhood is nerve wracking, I have no idea how we survive it.
It has so much to do with trust, and trust in myself if I really look at the situation open-mindedly. I have to trust that they will be responsible with themselves. I have to trust that I have taught them the things that the need to know to keep themselves safe while venturing out on their own. I am handing them the responsibility, not only for their well being, but for mine. They are walking around out there, each one of them, with a little piece of my heart in their hands. I love the movie Finding Nemo. It has one of the most brilliant morals in the world. I always sob like a baby when I watch the musical at Animal Kingdom. It is vital that we let our kids have space to grow and explore on their own. It is also important that we let them develop their own ideals and identities. We are living in a world where it is more dangerous to do that than it was when we were children, but it is not impossible.
We need to continue to be creative and innovative in discovering ways for them to cultivate their own independence. We also need to dedicate ourselves to reducing the danger that had descended upon our communities and is threatening our kids. It is unacceptable, that because it is less safe outside, we bring the kids in, and turn them over to electronic devices for entertainment. I spent my childhood exploring the woods with the neighborhood kids, or riding the streets on my bike, barefoot, without a helmet. My parents knew all of our neighbors. I remember one night when dusk hit, and my mother thought that I was lost. In a matter of fifteen minutes she had twenty or thirty people out scouring the neighborhood for me. I was in the bedroom watching TV in the dark as it turns out, but the community was right there.
So I know, the better that I know my neighbors, the harder I work to cultivate friendships with them, the safer my kids will be. I can also feel more confident in allowing my kids to explore on their own. I also know that the more that my husband and I strive to be involved in our neighborhood and our community, the more impact we can have on how it is run. We as adults, have left the responsibility to nameless others for far too long now, and that is how we have gotten to the place that we are today. We must be involved in our government. For the sake of our children and other peoples’ children, we have got to get involved. The people who are in charge, just are not doing an adequate job. As adults today, we are taking advantage of a lot of privilege, without living up to our responsibilities. Time to step up.