23 April 2008

The View From My Parking Space Outside

As you know, I've been thinking a lot about Matilda lately as she enters her sixth year; her jealousy of her sister, all of the amazing new things she's doing - like reading and obsessing about possible outcomes of thing that haven't happened yet - the insecurity that developed about halfway through kindergarten (and was never there before), about my own responsibilities when it comes to making sure she gets the love and support that she needs. All of that. And then I read this (and the kajillion responses to it) - a story about a mother who let her nine-year-old son find his own way home in New York City.

The point - made by someone else - that stuck with me the most, was that for many kids, this wouldn't even be a big deal; kids whose parents don't have the luxury of being able to follow their little darlings to and from school and down to the corner store for a snack since they are busy working two jobs just to pay the bills.

The other thing that was mentioned, both by the author of the article and by others, was how disproportionate the ratio of parental fear to actual danger really is. This is not a surprise to me, our media just loves to sensationalize the few cases of true tragedy that occur in this country (and around the western world), this I know. Still, it's easy to become a part of the world of fear when you're living in it.

But it has become one more thing to think about in relation to Matilda and her burgeoning independence coupled with a need for reassurance and affection. I want her to feel comfortable doing things on her own, but I'm never sure if she'll want to or not.

So today, at the end of a too-long shopping trip, we stopped at the fabric store to get Freya a little $1.00 coloring kit. (This was prearranged.) I suggested that in the interest of time (and a trunk full of frozen groceries) that maybe Matilda should just run in and grab it. She knew where it was, she had paid for her own just an hour or so earlier, but I wasn't sure she'd go for it.

She did. She didn't even miss a beat, she thought it was a great idea. So we pulled into a space right in front of the store and she hopped out, and Freya and I waited in the car (wondering how long was too long to just wait for her) until she came back, coloring kit and receipt in hand. All. By. Herself.

I told her I was so proud of her and she kind of shrugged as she buckled her seatbelt and said, "My outside was scared, but inside I wasn't scared at all."

Regardless of how careful I might need to be when it comes to making sure that each of my daughters is getting the love that they need from me, she has showed me, once again, that I'm crazy for doubting her. Maybe there never was any contradiction between the toddler who never even had the time of day for me, and this new creature that my daughter had become, only a phase in the evolution of a beautiful, confident woman, who bravely takes risks when she is ready, even when she is kind of scared.


Amy said...

Her outside was scared but her inside wasn't? That is such a cool way to put it! She is amazing. You're really lucky.

andi said...

You're such a good mom and she sounds like such an awesome kid.

I read about that 9-year-old too and thought it was so great. I just recently read something about how we fear all the wrong things - here is the link should you be interested. I thought it was fascinating.

Maureen said...

Aw, I love her saying her outside was scared but her inside wasn't... that is just too cute.

Way to go, kid!

Jen said...

You are such a great mom! I am so over-protective of my kids (they're probably going to become neurotic because of it) but I don't know how to not be. Every time I drive to my parents house I pass a spot where an 11 year old boy was abducted from and every single time I think irrational thoughts like "I can never let my kids out of sight until they're 24!"

I really struggle with finding a balance between keeping my kids safe and letting them be independant and keeping my own sanity. (I think I this is extra hard with Joseph because he doesn't understand the dangers of certain situations like most kids his age do.) This post really gave me a lot to think about. Your kids are so lucky to have you!