We’ve talked about how important movement is to brain health. And as you may have surmised, we are Americans. Americans don’t like to move much, or even if they do like to move, they don’t. Most of what we consider productive is done with minimal movement. Some people use movement as part of what entertains them, those people do not live in our house. In fact, whereas we may like some of those people, we certainly don’t understand them. So – the point is getting Marcus to move every day is important, but doesn’t come naturally.
Now that the weather has finally turned from winter. We had about 10 minutes of spring and now it’s summer. So about a week ago when I suggested to Marcus he could “Jump” (jump on a small rebounder we have in the living room – excellent for many health reasons I‘ll get back to) Or we could take a walk. Marcus then said he wanted to take the walk option, but himself. This is when we change the subject from exercise and brain health to independence and over-protective parents.
I’ve never let Marcus take a walk by himself.
I barely let him out of my line of vision. Ever. Whose fault is that? Mine.
Back up a few months to the High School State Football tournament. My nephew was playing, (#20, runningback, yea Malek!) Anyway, another nephew – a much smaller one – was standing several feet away from us adults with a gaggle of other kids down nearer to the field in a less occupied area of the stands, giving them room to clown around in peace.
Did I mention it was freezing cold? Well the anxiety helped to keep me warm. How do people let their kids wander and play together like that? Anything could happen! They could fall and crack their head open, they could be snatched away, they could get lost, alien abduction, spontaneous sinkhole in the North end-zone, the possibilities for tragedy are endless!
Surprisingly, none of that happened. Kids go off, they play together, they get into trouble, get hurt, cause mischief, and almost always come away without anything more than a scrape. Hm. I wonder how that works.
I was super independent as a child. I wonder if I would have been this same over protective parent if my child was not Marcus…but that question is also for another day. Today we’re talking about a walk around the block.
Independence comes in stages.
So, when Marcus and I went for our “short walk” – this is a walk around the block across from ours which is a smaller block and a slighter hill (thankfully) after crossing the street to the short block I said, “How about you walk that way, I’ll walk this way, and we’ll meet in the middle.”
“Yup.” He says and starts to march/jog on his merry way.
I walk the other way and immediately begin to calculate who to call first to help me find Marcus if I didn’t see him at the middle mark. I begin to negotiate with the police on how urgent the need is to find my son. I calculate how long it would take for my husband to get home, and if he would be safe to drive with this emergency on his mind. This all plays in my head until I see the happy march of Marcus in my line of vision. I did not make it nearly as far as he did, although my heart is racing.
“Hay there,” I call, “Good job!”
“Yup,” he says, “I talked to the guy.”
“Oh, you talked to a guy? What did you say?”
“I’m fine.” He says.
I do not continue around the other side of the block, I turn and follow Marcus – a few steps behind, for the rest of the way home.
Who’s not ready to walk alone around the block?
We’ll keep working on it.
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“Who’s not ready to walk alone around the block?”
I think that is an excellent question!
When I was a kid (I’m talking 10 or 12 here), I would go off on my own at Disney World. This was mostly a necessity since I was the only one who liked roller coasters. There were no cell phones back then, so there was always a “we’ll meet at so-and-so in 2 hours.” Of course, there had also been talks that if anyone tried to grab me, I was to scream as loud as I could that they weren’t my parent (this only happened the second trip we took, I think, because a child had been taken from the state fair and made parents across the state worry).
But as an adult, when I have had children or clients in my charge, I am terrified to let them out of my sight! I see kids jump out of swings (which I did all the time as a young’un) because I KNOW they’re going to break their neck or arm (even though I never got hurt). A client disappeared on me once at the state fair and I ran around in terror trying to find him (turns out he had been right behind the whole time).
Yes, as we get older and “wiser” know that things can turn bad quickly and those in our care don’t always know this. But is that all? Or is it confidence? Everybody, no matter their age or ability, has a strong sense of what they can and can’t do. Sometimes we have to trust them. Trust that they really have the confidence that they can do it.
It’s like being in a car with someone else driving and they seem to be going a little fast approaching a stop sign and you worry they’re not going to stop, but they do in plenty of time without banging you into the windshield. They had control of the car the entire time and knew what they were doing. We only worry because we don’t have the control.
Trust and giving up control are terribly hard things to do.
BUT, a person exerting their independence, is a good thing and a natural part of growth. As a parent, it seems you’ve done good that he chose now to try the walk on his own.
Ugh, this weighs heavily on my mind *all* the time. I totally overprotect Samantha. Granted, she’s only just turned 8, but I can foresee this trend continuing for some time to come. My husband is almost worse than I am about it, too. I’ll *know* she can do something by herself, and will allow her to do it, but he, not knowing she’s fine with it, will put on the breaks and tell her not to do it. How that plays out in her mind, that confusion of message, that stop and go, worries me. I have a post that’s been circulating in my mind for a few days now, about raising a *cautious* child. I think our overprotectiveness has leeched into her own sense of being, and now she’s overly cautious about doing many things. Things we’ve tried to convince her would be fun. She gets scared. I blame ourselves. What to do…what to do? Thanks for this post… (btw, I had to laugh when I read Kelly’s comments above, talking about all the things she used to do independently as a child *without* the parental comfort of a cell phone! I still wonder how my *parents* survived my youth without cell phone technology!!)
It was hard to do and then to admit, I swear I work to teach Marcus about independence! (And in my house, Dad is more cautious too) Then when real life steps in…
Thanks for your note.
I’ve gotten better (a little) about letting Josh out of my sight for short periods, but it’s not without stress. The last time I went to the grocery store without him I ended up with a flat tire. The flat tire was anxiety inducing but the thought of not being able to get back to Josh was down right paralyzing. The list of what could go wrong seemed endless. I feel your pain and maybe we need to create a OA (overprotective anonymous) group.
Hi. My name is Mardra.
I’ve been OA for about 24 years…