Friday, March 5, 2010

Firmness and Fluidity

My approach to parenting is to use both firmness and fluidity. Not an easy mix to balance, for me at least. Some things are an easy 'no'. Like, "Mom, can I go to so-and-so's house?" "Is his mother home?" "She's at work, but his brother is home." "Then, no." That sort of thing. And a host of others. Some things have been 'no' for a very long time, and slowly (here's where the fluidity part comes in) as maturity increases, 'yes' has come along instead.

For instance, for most of my parenting life, talking to friends of the opposite sex on the phone was a big fat no. They could develop friendships with boys/girls at school, but not on the phone. When the bigger kids reached the age of 14, then that privilege has been allowed, with a curfew time, and they have handled it responsibly.

I'm also an anti-hanging-out-at-the mall kind of mom. Well, really, an anti hanging-out-period kind of mom. I think there should be a purpose, something to do. I know what happens when kids have nothing to do and the whole big world in front of them.

A few weeks ago, Lyndsay wanted to go to the movies with some friends. All girls, although she tried to test the waters with the accompaniment of one 'special' male friend. That one went down fast. I had never before let her just go to the movies alone, and I wasn't sure I was ready. So, I told her she could go, but I would drive, and I would stay. I just wouldn't sit with them. I like all of her friends, and that was okay. It was a movie I wanted to see anyway. So, we went and I walked in separately, paid separately, and sat separately. (Although I did buy them treats and walk them over. You gotta have treats!) I sat well in front of them, so I couldn't even watch them. It was fine.

But last night Lyndsay came and asked if she and her best friend could go to the Americana (an outdoor mall) in Glendale today, with her best friend's mom dropping off and me picking up. My first response was, "How about I drive, and I stay? I'll just go to Barnes and Noble and you girls can do your thing?" She didn't really expect me to say yes to her original plan, but she said she was just hoping for some 'freedom'. I told her that I trust her, just not everyone else, and would feel better if I was at least close by. She accepted that. But afterwards, my heart felt unsettled. So, I asked her to let me think about it.

I ran through the pros and cons in my mind. She is almost 16. She is a sophomore. I do trust her. It would only be her and her best friend, whom I also love and trust. She would be shopping and not just hanging out. It may be time to give her additional responsibility and privileges. I mean she can drive soon. And date. Oy vey. In two years she won't even live here anymore. Maybe the Americana is a good first step.

So, I went back to her.

"Lyndsay, you know I love you."

"I know, Mom."

"You know it's just really hard for me to accept sometimes that you are growing up and don't need me all the time." (oh great, tears. Stay back!)

"Oh, Mommy."

"I think it will be okay for you to go alone. Her mom can drop off, I'll pick up. I think that will be okay."

Huge grins, and a whole lot of love. Both ways.

So, today I allowed my oldest child a new privilege, never before allowed. Today I took a step back and gave her little itty-bitty wings. Of course, that brings with it all kinds of new worries, but I'll survive.

Sometimes fluidity is hard.


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Beautiful post, Jenna.

I think by giving our children rules and then allowing them to mature and grow to the point the rules change and they are given greater freedom teaches them a very great deal. And teaches them how much you love them too.

Braden Bell said...

That was a beautiful post, Jenna. I have a 16 and 15 and13 year old, so I'm with you on this. It' difficult to navigate.