While looking up stats and information for my Risk Your Child's Safety For the Sake of Their Sanity series** , I came across Lenore Skenazy's Free-Range Kids blog. One read and I was hooked and now make it a daily visit. Today, Lenore posted a story about a mom, Lynn, who let her seven year old go get the mail for the first time. The mailbox is down the street and around the corner, putting her child out of her sight for a number of minutes. I highly recommend you visit Lenore's blog to read about it. Lynn's take on her situation is such a cute read!
It made me decide to tell the story of Lilly and Madeleine's first trip to the Dollar Rama by themselves. Now, we are a walking family. I deliberately live in a neighbourhood that has everything I would possibly need within a half hour walk. So, me and my kids walk everywhere. Let me preface this by saying I would never suggest allowing anything like what I allowed for a child who is not familiar with his or her surroundings, but I would suggest people familiarize their kids with their surroundings so they can do something like this. I'm afraid that this needs a map to fully understand what exactly went down. I needed a map to fully understand it when they were explaining it to me! So, here's the map (let's call the street running vertically Main St. and let's call the street running horizontally First Ave):
Lilly and Madeleine wanted to go to the dollar store themselves, sans growups. It is marked on the map with the $$$. The green dots represent streetlights and the red circle is a really busy intersection that I didn't want them to cross alone, with or without lights. In order to avoid the busy intersection (because people there can be really aggressive drivers), I had to give them directions different than the ones we normally take. They had been to Shopper's Drug Mart to pick up milk for me before, but never had I let them cross the busy street alone before this experience.
The directions I gave them were to take the path that leads to the back of the Shopper's Drug Mart and then to cross the parking lot and end up at the T intersection with the lights, which is another parking lot entrance and First Ave. I wanted them to cross the street at those lights, walk to the corner of First and Main, turn left then walk down to the plaza with the $$$. I thought it would be easy for them to follow as we had been to the $$$ numerous times (cheap snack crackers FTW!) by a more direct route but have crossed the street at that T-intersection many times for other reasons.
They ended up getting to First Ave with no problem but they didn't really cross it. Through some sort of weird directional mix up, they ended up walking toward the fire station! They got to the fire station and said "Hmmm, this isn't right!" and turned around. They ended up at the corner of First and Main - the intersection I didn't want them crossing - and crossed the street... the wrong way. They ended up walking toward Archie's. Once they reached Archie's, they said "Well, this isn't right!" and turned around and went back to the corner of First and Main again and ended up crossing it again. They were now headed toward the library. They reached the library (where we go once a week) and said "this isn't right either!". But they know that $$$ was right across the street and we have walked to $$$ after the library a few times. So, they continued heading in the same direction down Main, go to the other set of lights, cross the street, end up on the right side of the street (finally!) and headed to $$$, which is how we go when we get there after our library trips.
Being completely confused as to how they got there, they decided to just go down Main St, crossing the insane intersection yet again, continuing down Main until they reach the street leading to our subdivision. From there, they made it home. Crazy kids!
So, what did I do during this whole ordeal? I did start wondering after they were gone for an hour and a half. My mom was over and so she walked to route to $$$ that I gave the girls and called me on her cell when she didn't see them on her way or at the store. I started feeling a little anxious at that time. I was picturing them walking around some subdivision off of Main St., trying to find their way home. I went outside and took a peek down my street in both directions, only to see Lilly and Madeleine round the corner. I gave my mom a call and told her all was well.
When they came home, I couldn't help but laugh at their misadventure. They were so scared that I wasn't going to allow them to go on their own again because they crossed at the intersection I wanted them to avoid. Had they deliberately disobeyed that request, I would have been angry and would have banned them from solo trips to the store for a while. But, there was nothing malicious in their intent - they were just lost and confused.
I was so proud of them for keeping a cool head and being aware of their surroundings. I toyed with the idea of giving them my cell to call me if they got lost but it wasn't charged so it stayed home with me (my cell is never charged, which I suppose defeats the purpose of having a cell). In the end, I'm glad I didn't. They learnt something that day, a lesson I could never teach them. And they gained a giant leap toward independance.
Prologue: They have since made the trip to Dollar Rama two more times. Madeleine now wants to go it alone without Lilly, and when the opportunity presents itself, I think I'll let her.
*Well, Lilly is nine and Madeleine is seven, but the title wouldn't have rhymed that way.
**Part three is coming soon, really it is. Kevin's seizures and those pesky demanding kids are keeping me from writing it up. I mean, they like, want food and stuff. And they're so dirty so I have to, like, clean their clothes and sheets. I know. It's so unreasonable!