I come from a family of paranoid people. It’s not so much that the glass is half empty; it’s that you should really put a napkin over that glass in case a fly accidentally drowns in it. Fireworks are loud with a chance of starting on fire, and driving in the rain is a hasty break away from hydroplaning to your doom. Dancing while pregnant is ill advised because… wait, I don’t think a reason was given when I was yelled at across a reception hall to, “Save the baby and sit down!” Cars crash, planes explode and lawnmowers shoot dangerous shrapnel right into your eyes..
This would eventually effect how I was parented. But as it was also the early 80s, it became a strange tapestry of anxiety meets early “free-range” parenting (back then, it was just called “parenting.”) I was free to go wherever I pleased, but never forget the ALL ENCOMPASSING DANGER every car, stranger, and dark cloud contained. So imagine me at 7, gangly with poorly cut bangs, hyper aware of every crack in the sidewalk while I walked myself to school. I was free! Though, certainly not stress free.
Now I am a mother with children of my own, trying to navigate my feelings on what my children should be able to do independently and when, with news reports and my inherited fear whispering “never!” I do consider myself to be more reasonable about potential dangers, because I am aware statistics are actually in my children’s favor when it comes to safety. Also, my husband is one of those “Come on! We did X,Y or Z and lived and they will too!” guys, so he is a good balance. So it is interesting to that neither of us seem entirely confident about whether our 8 year old can walk home from school alone.
She began to ask to walk home alone in the fall of this school year. In kindergarten and first grade, this was not an option. Every child must be handed to their designated adult at the door, no exceptions. In second grade and beyond, however; kids are released without teachers, and the protocol for how you get home is more open ended. However, to my knowledge, no one in second grade walks themselves. In fact, it appears that very few kids in the older grades do either. The parking lot is often filled beyond capacity, despite the fact that many children live in the immediate area. I pass moms packed down like camels in multiple backpacks and lunchboxes, because no only can’t our kids walk, they also can’t apparently carry anything. It looks a little crazy, but that’s coming from the mom who wakes up her 1 year old to go pick up her child from a school four blocks away.