Antonio and Crystel are at that in-between age.
For example, Crystel completed a babysitting class and yet Jody and I have arranged for the 11-year-olds to have a nanny part-time this summer.
Crystel and her friend Allie’s babysitting advertisement states that they are responsible, trained, and caring. It is true that they are all three, but it is also true that Jody and I aren’t ready for Antonio and Crystel to be on their own for 8 hours a day.
They need supervision at the same time that they can supervise others.
I love witnessing—at arm’s length—their growing confidence and ability to manage themselves in this world—but not so far that my tentacles can’t grasp and reel them in.
Even before the snow was gone Antonio was riding his bike 3.44 miles to school. “You must like the freedom,” I said to him last night. “Yep,” he said.
During our latest bout of rain I watched him grow increasingly anxious waiting for it to stop so he could have his independence back. Finally, he quit waiting. He rode his bike in the rain.
I didn’t mind letting him. A kid should know what it’s like to ride in the rain so in the future he can choose whether or not to do it.
Also, I have this belief that if Jody and I provide experiences for the children that will make their hearts race perhaps they won’t need to search out excitement through drugs and alcohol. That could be ‘pie in the sky’ thinking. But, I’d rather take them to Guatemala and have them jump off of a cliff, zipline, kayak on their own, drive a boat, and ride a horse than be safe on our cul-de-sac.
Speaking from experience, I know that my behavior growing up was most risky when I was busting out of the restrictions that were placed on me. It was when I was by myself, free of my parents’ rules that I acted responsibly.
Of course, Antonio has rules to follow when he’s riding his bike–such as wearing his helmet, letting us know where he is (we provide him a cell phone for this purpose), following the street lights and crossing at intersections. Do I believe that he does all of these things all of the time? Unfortunately, I am sure that he does not. That’s when the mother tentacles spring into action.
Crystel is excited about babysitting with her friend Allie. I like that she’s doing it with a friend. I always stressed to Antonio and Crystel to stick together walking home from the bus and to take the same route each day. Two heads are better than one, I’d tell them and two children together are less vulnerable than one.
This in-between age means that often they are not together.
This age brings many dilemmas for parents—deciding on when to say yes or no isn’t always easy or clear. It is also an uncomfortable time for the 11-year olds, especially if they forgot to erase all the messages on the cell phone, didn’t realize that Mom could see the You-tube history or their moms have come looking for them because they weren’t home at the time that was agreed upon.
They might think we want them to be nervous on purpose. No, when the time comes, we just want them to leave the reach of our tentacles fully intact with a sense of adventure and a joyful spirit.