Many of my friends have children just a little older than mine... Early grade schoolers, with parents wondering how and when to start letting the kids venture out on their own a little. I hear a lot of people reminiscing about how "free" and "fun" our childhoods were, with the standard in most households being "just come home when the street lights come on". We also didn't wear bike helmets or seat belts, and a lot of parents smoked in confined spaces with their children present -- all of which we know are not good ideas.
Fast forward 30 years - full of statistics, knowledge, and technological advances - and you've got a different looking childhood. And, many parents are wondering if their kids are able to make the same memories they did, or if they're taking something away from the kids. Are we being overbearing or wise?
Our family has not come close to a place of complete freedom yet... I don't imagine that I'd find many adults who think a kindergartner is old enough to be home alone or running the neighborhood unsupervised, but we are approaching newer territory of sleepovers, drop-off sports & parties, playdates with friends whose families we don't know well, school field trips, etc. In the not-too-distant future, we'll be faced with the desire to bike over to a friend's house or walk to school unaccompanied.
I've written before about how I'd love to homeschool, but that there are just so many great benefits of public schooling right now. Perhaps the thing we love most about school is how we've seen Zach grow in confidence. He loves to have Mom or Dad volunteer occasionally, but he also loves to go into school all by himself the rest of the time! He hops out of the van blowing kisses and saying silly little boy things, while at the same time seeming like a little man. Doing things alone builds confidence in our young son.
I don't think I'm in the same camp as the parents who fear that their kids aren't having the same, exciting, fun-filled childhood as they had... Whatever my husband and I put into place will be our boys' normal. They won't know any different, so whatever guilt we may feel would be driven completely by us. They'll have complaints (just like every other kid), but I believe they will look back on their childhoods fondly, remembering fun, happy, excellent adventures! Is it really a problem that Mom and Dad are a part of all of the earlier year's memories?
Freedom to roam independently will come as the boys display their trustworthiness and competence. We believe that it's up to us as their parents to make decisions based on wisdom, not driven by guilt, or fear that the kids are missing something, or pressure from other parents in our circle. I'm reminded with each click of the seat belt that things from my childhood shouldn't necessarily be repeated -- like riding around town, laying down in the hatchback part of the car. Ice cream for dinner and chlorine bleached summer hair? Now, that's a must...wearing sunscreen, of course!