Kids these days are different than a generation ago. We’ve all seen article after article about how they aren’t anything like us kids of the 70s and 80s and it’s true. In some ways they are more mature and in others, incredibly naive. They don’t have the common sense or survival skills that we had in our generation… mainly because they haven’t needed it.
But what are the consequences to them not learning how to fend for themselves? To learn coping skills and to figure out how the world works, on their own terms? You read about kids who’s parents say “we” are applying to Harvard – because the parents don’t know how to let go of their child and let them figure out their lives. They call up the school and get them out of trouble rather than letting them suffer the consequences of their actions.
It’s also a result of society today. We’ve coddled our kids because we are afraid to let them go. We are afraid of all the crazies out there, of all the harm that could come to them if we don’t keep an eagle eye on them 100% of the time. It’s not that we don’t trust our children, but we don’t trust the other guy, the one that could hurt them.
I could go on and on. But the point is, it’s a very different generation than we were. At some point though, we have to let them try to fly. They may crash and burn and they may soar, hopefully the latter. But without letting them try, we can’t let them succeed or learn from their failures. The hope is that the failures don’t have fatal consequences – none of us want that. But we need to let them take chances or they will never grow up to be the leaders of the world.
Aidan’s at an age now where we are letting him take more and more chances. We are letting him test those wings and see where they will take him. And I think living abroad has lessened our fears, at least a little. I think of the parent I would be if I had stayed home in the States and the parent I am here. That’s not a judgement on any other parent in the States – that’s saying that I think I would have been a different parent there than I am in Europe.
With us now living in the suburbs again, it’s a little easier to give our little bird a push towards independence. Sometimes this seems to come with a lot of “can I watch (xyz)?” or “can I play (abc)?” and “I want (an iphone, tv in my room, ps4)”. He wants to grow up before we are ready for him to. And it’s hard sometimes to find the happy medium of our little boy and the tween he now is, getting ready for more independence and maturing every day into the young man he is becoming.
It’s amazing to watch how he’s maturing. The questions he asks are more thought provoking. Some often annoying (how many times in one day can we discuss the iphone that he’s dying for?)? But all coming from a boy who is growing up fast. Next year he starts secondary school and I expect us to see even more changes as he will no longer be the oldest in the school but looking up to the older kids and learning from the behaviors he sees. As it is, he’s regularly talking with a boy that he’s befriended that goes to the secondary school and already picking his brain on what to expect. Planning ahead!
We’re letting him do more things on his own. He plans his own playdates (or at least makes the calls and tries to coordinate as best he can). He is riding his bike 1.5 miles to the skateboard park which requires him to ride his bike through the center of town on his own. And he’s allowed to roam our neighborhood by himself. And we know this is just the start of so much more that’s coming.
I know some of you probably have kids his age that are already doing these things but you have to remember that for the last 5 years, he was a city kid who was not able to do them because of his geographical location. It’s hard to let a 9 year old roam city streets on his own. And while he had great city smarts living in Barcelona, he’s forgotten what it’s like to have suburban skills so we know we’ve got to work on those too.
He’s become a citizen of the world and that is also something we are incredibly proud of. This is a life lesson that he could not have learned had he stayed home in the US all this time. As a result, I find that our conversations are very different than I would expect at 10 years old. He sees the world from a very different perspective than you or I – it’s a much smaller place than we have grown up with.
Unfortunately some of this growing up also means he needs us less and less and is becoming more independent (some of these things are also really good like not having to tell him to take a shower in the morning 5000 times!). Hopefully his desire for independence means we are doing something right in how we are bringing him up!
When we left the US almost 5 years ago, we had a toddler and a little boy with us. How far we’ve come since then. It’s hard seeing these guys growing up so quickly but as we take on this new adventure in the Netherlands, I’m excited to see what happens next!