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Declaration of Independence

February 5, 2013

This is the note I got from Josh (who is eight years old) the other day.

“Dear Mommy,

I think it is unfair you are not letting me get a library card.  I am the reading kind of person.  I also think you should let all 3 of us wander around town as a group.

Love, Josh”

Now to be clear, I told him he could get his own library card if he was willing to take on the responsibility of keeping track of his books and paying any fines from his own money if the books were late or lost.  He just never felt up to that level of commitment. 

My favorite part of this note is that he wants to be able to “wander around town as a group” with his brother and sister.  This stems from the comment my husband made to him that even if he had his own library card, he would still need us to take him to the library. 

I’d love to see my little brood wandering around town – a little kid gang getting slurpees and going to the city library.  Although at 5 I feel Kate’s a bit young, I would love to allow the boys (ages 10 and 8) to have more freedom and independence.  I think it’s good for them.  Unfortunately, other people do not and they would call the police on me. 

I allow my boys to walk home from school together.  We live two blocks from the school in a very safe neighborhood.  But when I first started letting them walk alone, I had other parents from school freaking out: talking to me about it and telling me that they could pick my kids up if I ever needed them to, telling me that they saw a creepy guy sitting in a van on one of the streets my kids walk down (it turned out to be a parent waiting for their child to get out of school).  I assured people that it wasn’t because I was too busy or overwhelmed to pick them up, but that I wanted them to have the experience of having a tiny bit of independence.  Was I terrified the first few months?  Absolutely.  Did I run out looking for them if they weren’t home within 15 minutes?  You bet.  But it has been a great experience for all of us.  We’ve had some great teaching moments, like you don’t come home because you can’t find your brother.  You stay at the school, go to the office, or call me before you just leave the school alone.

It’s hard for me to deal with the other people who feel they know what is best for my children.  It makes me sad that we live in a society that is so afraid of being alive.  Crime is down from when I was a kid, yet fear is at an all-time high.  I’ll admit, there are still safety concerns aside from crime.  In fact, my biggest fear is always that they’ll get hit by a car because the driver is talking or texting on their cell phone.  But at some point I’m going to have to let go.  I think it’s vital for them to learn some basic skills before they get in a car and drive away (and that’s only six years away).  I just wish I could do it without inciting the judgement of everyone in town.

Josh did get his own library card.  He has a little notebook that he writes all the books down in, in the order of when they’re due.  He carries around the little receipt that prints out at the library.  He constantly checks his account online.  This morning he said, “Mom, I returned some books last night and my account isn’t updated yet.  Why haven’t they updated it yet?”  I had to remind him that the library didn’t open at 6:00 am.  So, it turns out he was ready for the responsibility of a library card – even more ready than I am!

And while he won’t be wandering around town anytime soon, he has asked if we could start walking around town together more so that they can practice going places.  And I simply can’t say no to that request!

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 5, 2013 10:44 am

    My sister’s neighbors all freaked out when she let her kids walk home from school and this is in the suburbs – I thought it a very sad statement about our society. We are afraid due to violence and media, I think. I so wish we lived close enough to our elementary school for my kids to walk. Some of my very best memories are of being a kid and meandering the whole mile to school and back. Stand your ground, mama!

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