There is a strange phenomenon happening in my apartment at the moment.
For the first time ever, my daughter is out of town for two days without us, having been invited by her friend & friend’s parent to go to Atlantic City to shop, hang out by an indoor pool and stay in a fancy hotel. And just now my son left with one of his friends to go to a fair in the Bronx. They’ll be riding the subway sans adults and returning sometime this evening.
I know that many kids spend time away from their parents at much younger ages, but we’ve always traveled with our kids and until recently they’ve never wanted to go away unless Joshua or I went along.
Is that the flutter of wings I hear?
I’ve always believed that a parent’s job is to give their kids roots and wings. Security and freedom. Security does not come from holding on too tight, but rather from years of trust and encouragement; letting your kids know you are always unconditionally there if they need you but that you believe in and support their ability to be independent. (That’s the freedom part) And although there is always a pang of “Oh my god what if the bus crashes, the subway crashes or some other random evil befalls them?” (thoughts that usually pop into my head at around, oh, 1a.m. when I am trying to fall asleep), I am happy that they feel secure enough to leave me. Right now for shorter periods of time, which will get longer as they grow in age and confidence.
No bird in the world would attempt to keep their babies immature and by their side indefinitely. Neither should we. As humans we have the added bonus of a deep (hopefully healthy) emotional tie with our kids and so their ability to leave the nest and fly does not mean we’ll never see them again. On the contrary, children who’ve been trusted and encouraged in their independence tend to enjoy time with their family – even when they are teens, even when they are grown and on their own.
Isn’t that the way it should be?