Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cell Phones, the Library, and the Trust Issue

M2 had an audition for her school's talent show today.  It's the first year the school has had a talent show, and even though auditions were supposed to be spread out over two afternoons - yesterday and today - I suspect 3/4 of the kids who wanted to participate were trying out today.  Because we have other stuff happening on Tuesdays, we were part of that bunch.

And because we go to the library on Wednesdays, M1 was out of library books to read and very quickly got bored waiting for M2.  He sat patiently on a bench outside the tryout area for about 15 minutes before he looked at me and stated very clearly, "I'm going to go climb something if I don't get something to do very soon."

He paused.

"Can I get my books and my library card and walk to the library??"

And once the idea entered his head, it of course gained momentum.  And once it gained momentum, he got very, very excited about it and was absolutely convinced that this was the proper course of action and that I should let him walk to the library all by himself.  It's not far.  It's a residential area.  But the 'helicopter mom' part of me internally shrieked at him, 'OMG WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!? OF COURSE YOU CAN'T WALK TO THE LIBRARY BY YOURSELF!!!  DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY CRAZY PEOPLE ARE OUT THERE???'

And I said, "No."

But then I started thinking about it.  He's 9.  When I was 9, my family moved from our minuscule town in Kansas to a rural area in Oklahoma.  The day after we moved in, a neighborhood girl showed up on our front porch.  She lived one street over, at the end of the street (our streets were all dead ends; I lived at the beginning of our street).  By the time fourth grade ended, we walked back and forth to one another's homes fairly regularly, without supervision.  

Even when I had been in Kansas, in third grade, I would visit friends' homes and we would walk to the convenience stores nearby.  Or we'd visit the park.  In other words, it may be 20-something years later, and I can't let him do exactly the same things that I did, but I still had some freedom by the age of 9.

It was at that exact moment that I realized why homeschool kids might need cell phones.  I had never really given a lot of thought to the idea of getting a cell phone for M1.  I totally get it for kids in public school, because heck yeah I want to know if the school goes on lockdown or something else happens, but my basis of argument for M1 had always been, "He's with me all the time.  Why would he need a phone?"  

Today, I got it.  He won't always be with me.  He'll want me to bug off instead of hang out during his classes.  He'll want to walk to the library - and it won't be impractical.  He'll want to go somewhere with his friends and not borrow their mom's phone when it's time for me to come pick him up.  In other words, soon enough, he'll become more independent.

All that flashed in my mind after I told him, "No" to walking to the library, and I realized that I was staring at a kid who was starting to push the envelope, just a little.  He never even would have considered walking to the library a year ago.  Now?  Well... yeah.

So I walked into the room where M2 was still waiting to audition.

"I'll be back in a few minutes," I told her.  "I'm taking M1 to the library, and I'll be taking your books back at the same time.  How many books do you want me to get for you?"

"Four," she told me, "and remember I wanted one on teeth, please."

I told her I'd do my best.  Then I drove M1 to the library.  He wasn't thrilled about it, but he didn't gripe.  So when we walked in, I called him to me.

"I know you're disappointed that you didn't get to walk here by yourself."  He nodded.  I continued.  "Did you know that the library allows 9-year-olds to be on their own in here?" (They do... they have a policy clearly posted.  And the librarians there know us fairly well, so they know to whom he belongs.)

His eyes lit up, but he kept quiet.

"Would you like to stay here and quietly read your books while I go back to the school and wait on M2?"

"Yes!!" he shrieked in a stage whisper. 

I nodded.  I told him to behave or else.  I watched him check out his books and go park himself near the library fireplace.

And I left.  When I got back to the school, M2 was second in line, and it took about 15 minutes before she was done, approved for the talent show, and we were in the car again.  Not too long, really, but it still felt like an eternity to me.  When we got back to the library, M1 was still in the same chair.  He turned when he heard me approach.

"I turned around every time I heard footsteps," he explained as he gathered his books to leave.  "I didn't want to miss you."

I had to smile.

"I thought about disobeying you a couple of times, like going to the back tables and hiding or trying to walk back to the school.  But I decided that would be bad because then you'd never let me do this again."


"And I want you to trust me."

And the heavens opened.  And angels sang.  And I thought, 'Maybe he's not entirely brainless.'  But if he wants to do this regularly, he's going to need a cell phone.  Maybe when he's 10.  He's still just a baby, after all.


Beth said...

Awww!!! He's getting SO big! I dread the day I have to let either 1 or 2 alone like that, mostly because I know they WON'T behave - mostly 1..

Addlepated Monkey Mama said...

Wow, that's huge! I think I'd faint dead away if I heard the words "I want you to trust me" come out of my son's mouth. I can't even trust him to be in the bathroom too long by himself!

Good for you!