“He’s at home today.”
That was my response when the moms at our neighborhood pool asked where my almost 10-year-old was. I ignored their startled looks and wide eyed glances at each other from behind designer sunglasses as I directed my younger children into the water.
“We’ll only be gone a few hours, and he’s almost 10!” I felt like I had to explain myself to these women who were looking at me like I’m some kind of monster, an attempt to justify my parenting decisions and avoid getting a call from CPS.
“Of course,” said the mom standing right next to me, after clearing her throat, but her tone was dripping with something that sounded a lot like … hmm. What was it? Oh wait, I know: JUDGMENT.
When I was 9, I was allowed to roam free on acres of land for hours. My parents ran to the nearest store, leaving me home alone in the middle of nowhere, and it wasn’t a big deal – at least, not to my recollection. It built a sense of confidence that has served me well, and I intend to instill the same in my own children. Except, our society seems to have a problem with children learning independence, and that’s really chapping my ass.
Some children could not be trusted at home alone at 9 or 10, even for a little while. It’s my call as a parent to make that choice – kind of like I think it’s perfectly normal to allow my kids to walk to the park down the road, help me grocery shop, or have some freedom to explore the world.
Why do I get judged by other moms for teaching my kids to be self-sufficient? BECAUSE WOMEN ARE SELF-RIGHTEOUS ASSHOLES. We’re all afraid that we are fucking up our kids, so to make ourselves feel better, we judge other parents by impossible standards. I guarantee you every mom at the pool that morning was thinking, I fed my kid a honey bun for breakfast, but at least I didn’t leave him at home by himself.
Recently, we went to the children’s museum with some friends. My friend’s daughter is 11 and would not leave her mother’s side, meanwhile, I barked at my 5-year-old, “IT’S A CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, GO PLAY!” when she was clinging to my side. I’m not a mean mom, but my kid is capable of playing in a pretend grocery store without my help. Children do not need our help to be imaginative. They do not need me to instruct them on how to play. They’re KIDS. I do not have a 12-month membership to a fancy museum so that my children can climb all over me when we go there. Do not sit on my lap! Go learn shit! Be free!
The mothers, babysitters, and grandmothers who were within an audible distance from me probably breathed a sigh of relief: I forgot to pack an extra set of clothes for the kids, but at least I’m not yelling at them to go play like that crazy mom. Why did she even have kids? I bet she doesn’t even feed them organic food.
Note: I do not feed my children organic food, unless you count the wild blackberries they pick off the neighbor’s bush through the fence.
Look, I love my kids, but my job of overseeing every action and decision is one that I’d rather not be doing when they’re old enough to figure shit out by themselves. If we hover and cajole and solve and fix, when does that end? At 13? At 18? 21? 40?
NO THANK YOU.
My son did great at home alone that day I brought the younger ones to the swimming pool. A tiny part of me was nervous that he would burn the house down or, I don’t know, get online and Google a bunch of inappropriate shit or make an online friend who actually turned out to be a pedophile. But you know what? He didn’t do any of that. He followed the rules, and the best part was the sense of pride and independence that rolled off of him. He knows that I trusted him enough to give him a chance, and he didn’t let me down.
Fostering independence is scary shit, but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.