The weather was nice, Harper didn’t, have school, the entrance fee was waved and it’s my birthday so we went outside to Badlands National Park. We did a few small trails including a juniper forest and massive canyon but mostly we climbed and explored.
I just dropped Harper off at school. Didn’t cry a single tear, not even almost. My heart swelled with love and pride for my kind-hearted boy.
As soon as we walked onto the playground Harper put his backpack down next to a tree and said “it’s okay mom, you can go now, I’m okay by myself.” I laughed and told him to go play, I wanted to stay a little. I watched him swing, going high without a push, I watched him yell and wave at the kids he knew and I knew he was more then ready to be there.
He’s going to do great and have a blast being in school, he has always thrived in groups. I, unlike many moms facing kindergarten for the first time, was ready for him to take this huge step, my biggest issue is understanding how is it possible that I am old enough to have a kid in school? I feel like I just graduated and was married last year, now I have 3 kids and one is old enough to be away from me all day? It’s mind boggling and at the same time a reminder of how exciting life is, cliche but also how quickly it goes. I remember when he was a baby I’d think about this day and consider that I’d be fairly young, as I was only 24 (6 days from 25) when he was born, thinking I might be one of the younger moms. However now that that day has arrived (probably due to having 3 kids and being a parent for 5 years now) I don’t feel young, I feel thrusted into middle age by the 3 that proceeds the zero as well as the fact that I have a kid in school.
Walking home, alone, I wasn’t sad. I wondered how we got to this place- How was I old enough to have a kid in school?! I mentally tried to recall everything I’d put in his backpack, did he have his snack, the party money, all his school supplies- what did I forget? Am I trustworthy enough to be a parent of a school aged kid? I now have to be responsible for making sure he does his homework, wakes up early enough and eats enough even when I’m not around. And now all this stuff matters and truly affects the outcome of his future! I feel like I just got past the fear of SIDS with him and now I’m suddenly worried about creating good homework habits.
One thing I realized about myself as mother today, I am a mama bird. I’m not a tiger-mom, helicopter-mom, mama bear, dragon-mom or any of those slightly terrifying parenting pictures. I love my kids, I keep them safe and close but when they are ready to fly I push them out and watch them fail or soar. And it’s at that point that I find the most enjoyment, watching them grow and become people, individuals outside of us.
Harper came bounding through the backdoor from the dark backyard. His cheeks where rosy, his breath was heavy and his eyes where wild. “Mom! We play outside!” I had been upstairs going through the night routine with Willem while Chad was downstairs doing dishes while our 4-year-old ran around outside playing with no adult supervision. “We played hide and seek, and bad guys and bad cars (?)” he exclaimed with a frenzied excitement. As he told me about his adventures outside I became just as alive as he was. My little boy is growing up and experiencing the world in his own way through his own eyes.
We are graduating as parents with Harper. I still carry Willem close and cuddle him to sleep (even as I type this they are both asleep in my bed on either side of me), yet Harper has gained an intense independence in the last year.
I just recently came across this op-ed in the New York Times about Free Range Parenting. I had only heard of this term once before on a Facebook thread but it didn’t stick long enough for me to google it. Once I came across the article I felt a strong gratitude that we are able to give our kids an imaginative and beautiful childhood free from fences and limitations.
Free range parenting to me is what we lived as children but it now has a name. It’s about trusting your child in the world and letting them play without the constant watchful eye. This does not work for every child and in every environment but it does stand to be talked about because as the parenting pendulum swings we can over-act when it comes to our children. This comes only for love of them and out of their safety but there is a point when we have to trust that they will make wise decisions and be ok. Think of it as little test runs to their adulthood (oh the thought of that hurts just a little).
“If you love someone let them free” is an in my mama-bear opinion but I do love Harper in a way that I want him to be who he truly is and not a mold that I put him in and trusting him at 4 to play with the neighborhood kids in a safe environment without his mom constantly overseeing him allows him to be his sincerest, sweet little self.