Trust but VerifyAugust 18, 2004
Do we help our children grow up, or do our children help us? Today was another sign that someone is growing up as my eight-year old son Ben walked home from school alone for the first time. For his first three years of school, Lori has met him at the school and they have driven or walked home together. Due to recent school policy changes, that has suddenly become more difficult.
So last night we had a family meeting to talk about what we should do about this and a few other scheduling dilemmas. [Side note: in these conversations, we love to involve Ben and find out his ideas, but we're always clear that the final decision rests with us.] After talking about a coupe of different options, Ben made a convincing case that he would like to walk home alone and was ready for it.
And, in fact, he did a great job and all went well. He arrived safe and sound, proud of his achievement. He had even requested that Lori simply wait inside the house, but I insisted to her that she wait outside just to be safe. She compromised by pretending to check the mail at the exact time he was heading down the sidewalk. He saw right through that, though, and made sure we knew that he saw through our shenanigans and was somewhat disappointed in our lack of trust (or was it honesty?).
It was only late today that I realized why this struck me as a significant, and fairly scary, moment. Until today, Ben has been in our care, or another trusted adult's care (school, friends, family, church, sports, doctor) every moment of his life. There is always comfort in that knowledge. Today, though, for three blocks and five minutes, for the very first time he was entirely on his own. It can't help but make a parent take a deep breath and realize that a door has opened to an entirely new side of parenting. A side where you're forced to realize that your child is always, always, in someone's trusted care...Christ.