As it turns out, my husband and I are doing a little too well raising an independent kid.
Let me explain.
Our back yard is mostly woods that back up to much larger woods. We take walks through there on occasion, enjoying showing our daughter animal tracks, nests, and different types of plant life. It’s common to see deer, rabbits, turtles, frogs, and turkeys. Out in the middle of the woods, completely overgrown with vines and brush is an abandoned and collapsing farm-house. Our daughter knows the path to get there and asks us often if we can walk there to look at it.
Yesterday afternoon my daughter’s friends, two boys from across the street, came over to play in the backyard with her. We were doing yard work and keeping an eye on the three of them as they played. They kept creeping further towards the back edge of the property, but I could see them. They were just jumping from log to log and playing a game of pirates.
Of course, as I turn around to help my husband with something, they made their break for it (the woods that is). I yell to my husband that I can no longer see them and he needs to go tell the kids to come back and make sure they stay on the property.
My minor heart attack
They were only about 50 yards into the woods, but I was having a minor heart attack. Deer, if startled can be dangerous, among the many other inherent dangers of being in the woods. My husband caught up to them and brought them back to our woods, making sure they knew the boundary of where they could play.
When I asked my daughter why they took off, she said, “Mommy, I wanted to show them the farm-house. I know where it is, and I was being safe! There were no cars, and we were holding hands.”
At four, her only concept of danger is to make sure she holds hands when crossing the street when no cars are coming.
Parenting win or fail? I’m not sure yet.
So, the moral of the story is that my four-year old daughter is both fearless and independent. A dangerous combination at this age. We explained to her that she is to never go into the woods without mommy or daddy, and she needs to always ask an adult before she leaves to go somewhere.
I have my moments of helicopter parenting, but I believe that kids need time to play outside without direct adult supervision. I grew up playing in the woods, and when she gets a bit older, I want that for her too. I love that my daughter would rather build a fort in the woods than be inside watching a movie. I love that she is fearless, but we need to work on explaining when to be fearful. I love that she is independent, but we need to teach her when to ask for help.
I’m learning day by day that all aspects of parenting require balance. I don’t want to reign in my daughter’s independence, but I need her to be more cautious and self-aware. I don’t want to be that helicopter parent, but I need to keep my daughter and her friends safe. One day, my fearless and independent daughter will head out on her own. Letting her go then requires that I build up her independence now, a little bit at a time.