My youngest son went on a field trip yesterday which ran from 9 AM to 6:30 PM. It involved four buses, one train, and one boat. They traveled to four different cities in total, and children as young as 3 years old participated.
While this was happening, my older son took a bicycle safety class, in which he and his classmates were taught how to negotiate traffic circles, use hand signals when turning, and follow basic traffic signals–both on the actual streets, and in a mini bike path in a local park.
Despite what I see on the streets, he was not taught to pop wheelies or carry passengers on his handlebars.
Both of my children routinely walk around town on excursions for their schools—to the post office, or to a performance at another school. They travel to the city pool in groups, or to the beach. Usually without us knowing until after the fact.
It’s different. Not good different, or bad different, just different. Schools are trusted, and children have more independence, earlier. It’s not uncommon to see ninc year olds take themselves to soccer practice, or seven year old children fetch bread or fruit from the local shops.
It’s a gift, this bubble of protection. We send our eight-year old out to buy bread. He crosses the street, and orders in Spanish. He walks home, his arms heavy with fresh bread—his shoulders a little straighter and his stride a bit more confident.
He feels valued. He feels important. And perhaps, a bit invincible.
And that’s when we start to dance. He would like to ride his bike to the beach; I tell him I’m coming along. I let him order food at restaurants, and make his own macaroni, chocolate chip cookies, and pancakes. But he doesn’t get to go on the computer without me. Or talk on the phone. Or go far away by himself.
He cries, sometimes, and tells me that I don’t trust him.
I want to tell him that I trust the man within him, the core of him–the loving soul that will someday hold his own children, and smile like his father.
But that doesn’t mean I trust the impulses of his eight year old self, the searching ball of energy looking to unfurl and illuminate.
I dole out freedoms like seeds from a pomegranate. I hope, one by one, that they can satisfy, and the flavor explodes on his tongue.
But not too many, and not so fast.