Zacharie heading home from school

I did it. I let Zacharie walk home from school alone. I walked him across the busy road that freaks me out, and then let him walk the rest of the way home while I peeled out with Charlie for his art class.

It was just less than a kilometre, a walk that would take less than 9 minutes. Still, it felt like those moments when early astronauts would go to the dark side of the moon and lose communication with Earth. For a few minutes, he would be untethered, floating alone in the world.

Sure, there are apps and tags and assorted geolocating devices we can pin to our kids, but why would we do it? I didn’t need one. You didn’t need one. Crime rates are lower than they’ve ever been and yet, in an ever connected world, we worry as soon as that connection drops.

Instead of tracking him online,  my wife and I texted back and forth like as we awaited his arrival.

“I think I see him!!” she texted me few minutes after I had left him alone on the pathway. “He’s running home holding his breath,” she wrote adding an lol emoticon.

Zacharie ran the last block home after seeing a man smoking in his driveway a few doors away while he worked on his car.

“I don’t want to breathe in any smoke so I just ran,” he explained to me later. “I thought he was going to say ‘Hey do you want to try this, it’s kinda cool?’ but I don’t like smoke.”

Like the time I let Zacharie ride his bike around the block for the first time, free range parenting is hard. Your mind wanders, you worry, you wait, and time stands still.

When I asked Zacharie how he felt walking home alone, he beamed. “I didn’t feel nervous at all actually,” and then quickly moved on to another Pokemon related topic as he fiddled with his iPad.

It was a big deal to me, not so much to him. The harness needs to come off, the kids need to grow, and they need to know that we not only trust them, but we trust our neighbours too – even if they smoke.

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