downtownexpress.com
Volume 19 | Issue 25 | November 3 - 9, 2006

youth

Slowly accepting my son running ahead

By Jane Flanagan

Every morning when I walk my son to school, he runs ahead of me. Rusty, 8, darts in and out of people carrying cell phones and brief cases, and flies past his classmates holding their mom or dad's hand. Occasionally the grownups will glance back to see where in the hell the adult in charge is, and I'll smile meekly and wave.

He runs up the school steps into the building, and then out the back door to the yard. One recent morning I trailed along at my usual three to five minute lag time. When I got out back, I immediately spotted a friend and start chatting, forgetting all about my kid. It's an enclosed yard and I am always relaxed there. Spotting another friend, I greeted her and the two of us started chatting as we walked out of the yard to start our day. As I turned the corner to head to the gym workout I didn't want to head to, it occurred to me that a) I never actually saw Rusty enter the school yard; b) never saw him playing the entire time I was out there and c) did not see him line up to go into the classroom.

I thought about this for a minute. “He had to have made it into the yard, right? But why didn't I see him playing at all?” And, “What the hell kind of mother am I anyway?”

I walked back toward the school building, re-greeting all the parents I had wished a good day to. Climbing the steps I ran into a mom who said, “I'm confused, didn't I just see your young man in class already?” I opened my mouth to explain but simply said, “Yeah he's in school.” (Thank God.)

Just another day in the life of raising a boy in the city.

I first started letting him run to school last year, when he was a having a rough time in first grade. He needed to let off steam and allowing him to breeze like a bullet on the block was the best I could come up with. He's much happier now in second grade, but there is no going back on the bullet in the breeze routine.

One tricky thing (one?) about parenting is recognizing that kids are all different. Parenting the one you have is the trick, and it's taken me awhile to grasp this. My son is a mover. I liken him to a thoroughbred racehorse. He was born to run. He could not be more different than me. When I was a kid, I hated the school yard, and didn't like sports much better. My son is majoring in gym. So I've had to work some to understand this boy and his unbridled energy.

Now that I'm onboard, what to do about it is another thing. Living in the city it's customary for children to walk to school holding their parents' hands. It's a sound policy. Yet, looking at my bloomingly, bigger-by-the-moment 8-year-old, I know there is no way in hell this kid is holding my hand.

I tell myself it's for the best. Letting him charge ahead and walk into the building by himself both lets him run off steam and feel independent, two key objectives for an 8-year-old. I know I'll be looking for many more outlets in the years to come. Only the decisions will get more complicated and the risks? Well, when I first hear the phrase, “Can I have the car keys, Mom?” I'll remember these walks to school. These will be the good old days.

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