Friday, October 2, 2009

America's worst mom

And surprise! It's NOT ME. "Really?" asked Husband over breakfast, as I announced this from behind the paper. "Are you sure??" Positive!

Lenore Skenazy apparently took her kid to a MacDonald's in Manhattan for lunch (not the best choice, if you ask me), then to Bloomingdale's (fine), where she left him in the handbag department, and let him take the subway home himself. Way to go! I let my daughter and an older schoolmate hitch a ride with another parent to a subway station and take the train home from school to the station near my work, where I pick her up and ride her home on the back of my scooter. I wouldn't have the balls to let her ride by herself, but then again, subways are sort of new for us. She could probably do it though. We play this game at the airport "OK, pretend you're here without me. What do you do first?" and she nails it every time.

I think I may become a sort of disciple of this woman. I'll start by becoming a regular reader of her blog, Free-Range Kids. As in "what's good for the chicken is good for the kid," I guess. Aside from the business of eating whatever you find off the ground, I'm pretty much down with that. Or rather, I'm working on it. It's hard.

Although the subway ride is a work in progress, I took another big step this week, and like America's Worst Mom, my efforts were not met with unanimous support. I let Sophie go on her class camp out without her parents. AGAIN, because I didn't go last year either. That wasn't my fault though. Last year's teacher wanted only enough parents to drive and offer minimal supervision, reasoning that it was, after all, the KIDS' camping trip. This year we have a new teacher, who mixed things up a bit with a more-the-merrier approach. Fun! I was ready to go, and anyone who knows me know I am perfectly capable of neglecting my kid even while present, so I was confident I would not detract at all from Sophie's experience of independence.

BUT. She did not want me or Husband to come. "I do not want to hurt your feelings, but . . . " But the all the other parents will be there having FUN! "But it is not your trip." I know, but why do you not want us?? "Because I want to be a big girl." How could I say no to that? Because she is.

She competently ran down the check list sent home from school and packed herself. "I have five pairs of panties!!" Why five if you're only going to be there for three days? You wear one pair the first day, you take two other for the next two days. You need to pack two. "I want to be extra sure I have enough!!!" Alright then. She's clearly ahead of her father on this.

She was excited, and I was excited for her. She was on her game. I felt good, although a little sniffly that she is growing up so fast. But as people talked excitedly about getting ready for the trip, I did feel a little left out. Had I made right decision by letting Sophie make the decision and holding to it when it was a decision I would not have made? At least one parent thought so: I was the adult. Since when did I allow a nine-year-old to make decisions? And was I not aware that my child "needs me"?

My child does need me—but not to take her on a school camping on a trip with twenty other adults. She needs me to set limits but also to move those limits out when the time is right. What would it do to deny her request? Tell her that she's not ready to be a big girl? That I don't trust her? That camping is dangerous? This was a trip to a forest, not the Tenderloin, and she's a big girl with five pairs of panties.

But it's a hard balancing act, at least for me. I try to tell myself it's not about me. I never fully grasped the concept of codependence until I had a child. At some level, I do need her to need me. She's the only one I've got: If I lost her, I would cease to be a mom and be only that crazy mess of a woman who cannot stop crying, throwing up, and people reasonably think why don't we just kill her too.

But as much as the mommy blog thing isn't really my scene ("my kids ate this, said that, and then pooped!"), reading someone like Lenore Skenazy helps me find and negotiate the middle ground of being responsible yet empowering: Sophie will most likely not die on the camp out (we'll know for sure this afternoon). So until she does or I do, I'm going to live as if that outcome were not possible. Or at least not probable. Most of the time. Really. Because, as I said, it's hard and I'm working on it.


Purple Flowers said...

You are an awesome woman who is an awesome Mom!!! :)

Yam Erez said...

I'm behind you, Cincy, and I like your writing! FWIW, there are parents, including my husband, who actually WANT to go on their kids' class campouts. I still can't figure it out: The school is offering you free kid-sitting for 1-4 nights and you not only decline but would RATHER spend the next 1-4 nights with 30 7-14-year-olds? Can someone clear this up for me???

Ginny said...

I think there are worse things than not going on this trip. Just be as sure as Sophie is.

Kate said...

I can't imagine criticizing your decision - it seems like the perfect low-risk opportunity to allow her a little taste of independence from you while making sure that she has plenty o' adult supervision. Even if it's hard fro you to let her go!

Kate said...

I love Free Range's tough to find a middle ground. Even though yours isn't really a "mommy blog" I've always admired the way you approach parenting me hope that I'm headed inthe right direction as my kids get older.