I am not a free range parent. I'm more of a paranoid semi-hoverer. Judge me, don't care. My family is my everything and I guard them like a pitbull. I understand the benefit of encouraging independence in children but my kids are too young for experimentation. I don't involve myself with everything they do, they engage in plenty of independent play, but my eyes aren't off them often.
I could blame my exposure to the over saturation of tragedies involving children in the media, personal experiences in my past, or my overall mistrust of the general public. Maybe it's a combination of all three. I'm not perfect. I try to keep the menagerie of neuroses to myself to avoid influencing my children and negatively shaping their own experiences.
I don't teach them about stranger danger. Geeze, I talk to strangers all the time. I'm pretty friendly but my friendliness does not extend to trust as it relates to my children.
Until we moved to London.
Preston loves making new friends at playgrounds while Cameron prefers to play alone or stick by me. I try to make them both happy by dividing our time evenly between their preferred activities. Sometime it doesn't work. Last week Preston made a new friend and wanted to play with him at a different part of the playground I couldn't see from where I stood with Cameron. Cameron wanted to stay in the swings.
His new friend's father offered to watch him while he played with his son. I took a deep breath, thanked him, and watched my little guy run off with his buddy. I continued pushing Cameron on the swings nonchalantly but I was dying on the inside. The rational part of me was aware of the cameras, the locked gate/sole exit behind me, and the unlikelihood that this kind gentleman had sinister motives. The crazy part of me was ready to give chase and knock the man out with my camera if he ran past me with my baby.
I'm nuts. I know.
Soon Cameron was ready to chase pigeons and we made our way to another area of the park. Preston was happily chasing his friend while the boy's father looked on. I thanked him and struck up a conversation. He was an American from New York and a professor at Oxford University. Seemed pretty legit. Nice guy. We said our goodbyes and I patted myself on the back for letting go.
Preston might have been out of my line of sight for less than ten minutes but it felt like forever. I wasn't entirely comfortable but I made a sincere effort to trust my instincts. They told me that Preston would be fine. He isn't a baby anymore. Each day I notice his confidence and independence growing. It's beautiful to watch but it's difficult to experience. He doesn't always need me.
I remind myself that I've done by best as a mother. Preston knows how to handle himself. I need to have faith in myself as a parent and Preston as a big boy. I no longer need to hover over him in public. He knows better than to run off, no longer eats sand, and was taught never to leave with anyone but his mom or dad (Grandma, Grandpa, or whomever is in charge at the moment).
Spending time in a country where I know no one has forced me out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I have to trust someone I don't know well. My kids are growing up and while things have grown easier in many ways (more sleep!) they become challenging in others I hadn't anticipated.
Letting go and trusting others is difficult for me but I'm working on it.