Saturday, January 16, 2010


Kevin approached me the other day telling me that he wants to volunteer at the local public library this summer with his friend. What a fabulous idea. Then he said, "D's mom said he'll be able to ride his bike to the library . . . do you think I'll be able to?" "Wow, ummm, I don't know," I said, picturing in my mind the blind hills they'd have to navigate and the busy street they'd have to cross.


Yesterday, late afternoon, Kevin told me he was headed to the schoolyard with his basketball to shoot some hoops. "By yourself?" I asked. "Yeah, Mom," he said, rolling his eyes. "Ummm . . . well, okay . . . I guess," I said, adding "You know, I know you're thirteen now and everything, but the rule about talking to strangers still applies, okay?" "I know, Mom," he said, rolling his eyes again.


Today, Kevin tagged along with me to run some errands, and in the truck he said, "Hey, Mom, do you think it's okay if I get a pocketknife?" "What?!" I replied, a little horrified. "What in the world do you need a knife for?" "Well, you know, just for stuff. It would be handy sometimes," he said. "And Dad thinks it would be okay." What?!? He does?!?


Do you see what's happening here? He's growing up. My god. What happened to the little boy who held my hand when we crossed the street? What happened to the little boy who carried a stuffed goose and a stuffed parrot - his buddies - everywhere with him? What happened to the little boy who was convinced that there were monsters lurking in his closet, and who believed that the spray bottle of water I squirted into his closet really was anti-monster spray?

I'm clearly having a bit of trouble with this whole growing up and letting go thing. I mean, Kevin is a really great kid; he's never gotten into any trouble and has never given us any reason not to trust him. But it's not him I don't trust, it's the world. I've probably been a little on the overprotective side of parenting, not letting him walk home from school on his own until he was 11, not letting him go more than a couple blocks from home on foot or on his bike, still not letting him play outside after dark, that kind of thing.

I worry.

But I'm also starting to realize that we've got to let him spread his wings a little. If I shelter him too much, he'll never learn how to handle himself, and I might risk sabotaging the very things I've tried so hard to foster: his safety and good judgment. I know from personal experience that suffocating a kid with rules and restrictions pretty much guarantees rebellion and foolish behavior.

Ahhh, this parenting thing. It never gets any easier, does it?

What's that line from that old .38 Special song?

Hold on loosely,
But don't let go.


Keri said...

My mother insisted that I had to take a first aid class before she let me have the pocket knife my aunt gave me. She said that if I was old enough to use a knife, I was old enough to take care of any cuts I gave myself.

Beth said...

It's also like that Jason Robards line from the movie "Parenthood" about, well parenthood...
"It's like your Aunt Edna's ass; it goes on forever and it's twice as frightening!"