I remember being a new parent. Everything was scary and babies are fragile. It was a whole new world. I got a lot of advice from a lot of different people. All were contridictory. So I learned that there are many ways to parent and everyone thinks they are doing it right, and everyone else is wrong.
As our son grew, he was... not as fragile. Skinned knees, bumps and bruises; they're part of growing up. And as he gets older, as much as I feel the need to protect him, I think it is my responsibility as a mother to also teach him independance, freedom and resourcefulness.
This past Thursday I attended the CJP Jaffa Lunch and Learn event with special guest speaker, Lenore Skenazy.
Thats right. "America's worst mom". Such a title for a little Jewish mom!
She was funny (hilarious even!), engaging, and made me feel silly when she brought out a plastic duck that says "HOT" when babies' bath water is too hot, only to hear the instructions clearly say "Always put your hand in the bath water to check the temperature." <blank stare>
Ok, that was definitely a waste of money.
She told her story -- the story everyone has heard about letting her 9 year old, armed with a subway pass and a $20 bill, ride the subway home by himself. They discussed this as a family and came to the decision together that this would be a fine thing to do. Her son was excited. She said that when he came home, he felt grown up and proud of himself.
Yet she was labeled "America's worst mom."
For making a parenting decision.
She had everyone in the room captivated. We all make parenting decisions that are best for our own families. Right or wrong (by whose standards, anyway?), they are our decisions, even the ones that backfire on us.
As a direct result of Lenore's experience with the extreme reactions to her parenting decision, she started a website called Free-Range Kids, the premise being we shouldn't be so afraid to let our kids enjoy life.
From her "Why FreeRange" page:
"I started this site for anyone who thinks that kids need a little more freedom and would like to connect to people who feel the same way.
We are not daredevils. We believe in life jackets and bike helmets and air bags. But we also believe in independence.
Children, like chickens, deserve a life outside the cage. The overprotected life is stunting and stifling, not to mention boring for all concerned."
There was much laughter and many stories that made us shake our heads, but it was her closing statement that really rang true for me.
Let your kids be a part of life. They want you to believe in them, and they want to feel grown up.
I know this to be very true with my own son, and in my head, I vowed to let him do more, try more on his own, so he can learn to be brave as an adult.
Thank you CJP's Jaffa Society for hosting a wonderful event. And thank you, Lenore, for spending the afternoon with us and encouraging us to let our kids be a little more... Free range.