I am lucky enough to have very mature children. They follow rules to the point that it annoys other kids. They do their chores willingly. They even ask to help me with my own housework just because they can now. They can be pretty awesome.
They can also have the attitude of a tween girl and the older they get, the more of that side of them I get to see. I can’t help but think of them as tiny forever, but sometimes you just have to let go.
When we go on walks, the kids never go much farther ahead than a few sidewalk squares. There are dogs with invisible fences that tend to scare the kids when they come to the edge of their yards, so they stay close to me. Last weekend, we gave the big one his scooter and the little one chased behind him. We stood at the end of the driveway and told them, “Go as far as you want as long as you can still see us. We’ll come get you if you get too far out.” We gave them total freedom with the promise of someone saving them, making them comfortable with it. And they tested their boundaries: First 3 houses away and back, 5 houses and back, then finally to the end of the block (which checking every couple of houses to make sure we were still there).
I cringed while their little forms got smaller and smaller. What if a dog ignored their invisible fence or the collar didn’t work? What if a big white van pulled up and took them away? What if he lost control and ended up in the street while cars were coming? You know, the typical mom panic attacks.
Then I remembered that at his age I was living in a broken-down neighborhood in a high-crime city and my mother let me take my bike around the block to my grandmother’s bookstore frequently. Down a street of strangers and across a busy street into a small commercial area, and to the waiting arms of my awesome grandma. I survived just fine. These kids will be fine going to the end of a block in an upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood. Really, it’s okay. (I’m convincing myself more than trying to convince everyone else at this point.)
After a visit at the lake with my family, we came back home and gave the kids a proper Summer night: Bubbles, sparklers, and flashlight tag. Tiki torches and lots of cookies. Staying up until 10, way past bedtime, just to be able to use the sparklers and catch the fireflies. It was wonderful, and for once I just sat back to let them be kids. There were no video games or Netflix binges that night. Just family.