For five minutes today my world stopped turning. 300 seconds of the most intense panic I have ever felt in my life.
Mr. T. asked if he could go play with his friend down the street. I said yes, but not before reminding him of our rules and pointing out the limits of where he could and couldn’t go. He happily rode off on his scooter down the street while I brought our bags inside the house.
Only a few minutes later I stepped outside to check on him and couldn’t see him. I didn’t immediately panic. I stood looking from side to side waiting for him and his buddy to appear scooting side by side as they normally do. He’s good at obeying rules and stays close by always within view and earshot.
A group of boys were playing at the far end of the street but they were a bit older and I nervously scanned the group for a little guy with a spiderman helmet.
I walked down the street to his friend’s house and no one was outside playing, Mr. T’s scooter was not strewn across his driveway as it usually is.
My heart started racing and my breath quickened as I hurried back home. I pushed open the door and said “I can’t see him”. Mr. C must have heard the panic in my voice and he got on his bike to go look for him.
I paced the street and when I saw Mr. C coming back home with no Mr. T, true panic set in. Tears welled up in my eyes and I could barely squeak out “should I call the police?” before Mr. C, equally as panicked, replied “I think so”
I raced inside for my phone, the most horrific thoughts running through my head. I dialed 911 but before hitting call I thought of his friend who lives on the other side of our crescent. He often wants to go ask him to play but he knows he’s not to go without an adult. Phone in hand, I raced over to see if he was there, my last effort before calling the police. Just as I set out Mr. C appeared and gasped “He’s at B’s”.
It was only 5 minutes. 5 minutes felt like an eternity.
As utterly terrifying as those 5 minutes were, I feel torn.
I feel torn between keeping him in my arms forever where he will stay safe and warm and between letting him out into the big, cold world to start figuring out which path is his to follow.
As my children get older I am trying to find the balance between being an overbearing, overprotective mother and being a careful, protective mother. By no means do I want to put my children in a situation that they aren’t physically or emotionally ready for but at the same time I want them to learn how to navigate the world a little at a time. My instinct is to stand beside them every second of their life. I want to protect them from everything and everyone. I do, however, understand that the more I do for them the less they learn to do for themselves.
Often, as parents of our times, I think many of us parent out of fear. We are afraid to let our kids out of our sight because of the horror stories we hear involving kidnapped children. We are afraid our kids will fall behind so we overschedule with sports, music, art, tutors. We are afraid of all the bad things that may possibly happen to our kids so we do everything in our power to prevent those things from happening.
Truth is, I think we are hurting our kids a little. I don’t want to raise my kids to fear the world. I want to raise them to be confident enough to face the world head on. I want them to be comfortable making their own decisions. I want them to fail and learn from their failures. I want them to learn their boundaries. I want them to learn to trust their own instincts. The only way to do this is to let go of the reigns an inch at a time.
Lesson learned for both of us today. I learned that, until I am comfortable with Mr. T. following the rules we set as a family, his reigns have been let go far enough. Mr. T seems to have learned that there are reasons we set rules. I think seeing me in tears and his dad shaking with fear showed him that maybe he crossed the line this time. As hard as it may be, I can’t let this make me wrap him in a bubble and keep him locked up inside. He still has so many lessons to learn and he won’t learn them hiding behind my legs. My children are both independent and curious and I don’t want to squash that.
No one said being a parent was easy but no one prepared me for just how hard it would be.