Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Letting Go

When Sugar was in preschool, in June the teachers told us about a summer sleep-away camp. They also teased me, knowing that I would not send Sugar. I couldn't imagine who could send their sweet, vulnerable 4-year-old away from them for a whole week.

By the time Sugar was 8, I had heard of more sleep-away camps, and more kids going. Still, I couldn't see sending my child away from me to be in the care of people I didn't know.

And yet, that's not to say that over there years, there haven't been times when I've been faced with letting Sugar begin to experience the independence that will all to soon be unremarkable.

Single nights, here and there, spent with grandparents or Saint Aunt have been a part of her life since she was a baby. When she was 5-years-old, I made the huge leap of letting the grandparents take her to Disney World and other stops in Florida for 5 days and she's been on at least one other trip with them since then.

And there's the daily lessons in letting go - dropping her off at school and letting her walk up to her classroom on her own. Then dropping her at activities too. But even this last one has been fraught with restrictions. Watching her through one set of glass doors as she enters the lobby, then driving ahead to another set of doors where I could watch her enter the elevator or the stairwell to go the one flight up to her class, then waiting for her call on her cell phone to let me know she was in class, safe and sound.

In fact, this is what sold me on getting a cell phone for Sugar. She had begged for one for months and I thought it was ridiculous for children to own cell phones. But then I realized that the cell phone could extend my reach. Could allow me some comfort in letting my child begin to experience the independence that I know she needed to learn gradually, over years.

And that's the thing, isn't it? No one really tells you when it's time to start letting go. I mean when I was a kid, I think parents started letting go much earlier. When I started to walk to school on my own in first grade I was one of the last kids to do so. Everyone else had been walking on their own for months by the time my mother allowed me to do it. Seven-years-old and independence was already being introduced.

But, who knows how old my children will be before they get to walk out the front door and head off to school on their own. And I am certainly not alone in being slow to allow my children independence.

We are a generation of parents who keep our kids close. We

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