Pushing Your Chicks Out Of The Nest

“Momma? Momma?”

Zach was mock whispering and rocking my nearly comatose body back and forth, hoping to rouse me so that I could answer an urgent question.  I should have been up, but it was June and I was sort of hoping we could all just pretend that school was out for the summer.

“Mmmmm,” I managed to grunt.

“Momma, Bro and I want to go on an adventure today.”

“Can that wait until after I use the bathroom and get some coffee in me?”

The boys have learned that the surest way to avoid fractions and grammar and laundry is to tell me they want to go on an adventure.  I’m a sucker for adventures.  Like the boys, I bore easily.  And like the boys, I have no great desire to spend the day trying once again to help Ezra memorize the seven times table or wondering again why it is that Zach is not capable of capitalizing the first word in a sentence.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you can always give in to that impulse jump in the car and head off for lands unknown.  I suppose that very freedom is risky as well.  But like I said, it was June, and Zach sounded so sweet, and I had a headache that did not bode well for long division.  An adventure it would be.

“I think that you two should take the T by yourselves, and I’ll meet you in Harvard Square for lunch.”

The boys are nine and ten, and I’d been thinking they were ready to ride the subway without me.  They already know far more about the stops than I do and, unlike me, they don’t get all turned around when they come up on to the street from the station below.

“But, Mom, what if someone tries to kidnap us!”

“No one is going to kidnap you.  You’ll be together, and there are a ton of other adults who can help you if you need it.”

“What about all of the homeless people?”

“What about them?  They don’t want to hurt you.  And you come in contact with a lot more homeless people in Central Square than you will on the subway.”

Note to self: We need to explore their experience of strangers and homeless people.

They went back and forth, trying to decide if they were ready for what to a ten-year-old can feel as scary as heading off to summer camp.  Eventually, we decided that we would all go to the station, and see how it went.  On the way there, I suggested that we pray Maranatha, which is Aramaic for Lord, Come.  We had been practicing a meditative version of the prayer, and I thought it would help.

Zach protested that he didn’t need God because he wasn’t scared.

Note to self: We need to explore their experience of prayer.

Ezra decided he was ready to give it a go, even if Zach didn’t want to.  He would get on the first train, and Zach and I would follow in the second station.  Once on the platform, though, I wasn’t comfortable with Ez riding alone.  I told Zach that I would give both him and his brother $5 if they would ride in a different car from me.

That’s right, I bribed him.  Outward Bound would not bribe a kid to do a ropes course.  But I’m not Outward Bound, and I was hungry and wanted to get to lunch, and I wanted to encourage him and didn’t want to take the time to manipulate him more subtly.

They hopped on the train, holding hands.  I got on the car behind them, and they waved at me through the windows.  They beamed the entire way.

On the way home, they asked if they could have another $5 if they rode the train by themselves.

Note to self: Bad Mommy reaps what she sows.

After negotiations were completed, they again grabbed each others hands and took off.  I had wanted them to wait for me on the platform at our stop.  But they had assured me that they would be fine getting off the train and walking home by themselves.

When I got home and I asked how it was, they said, “No big deal.”

I still haven’t figured out the balance between encouraging your kids to take risks and supporting their own sense of boundaries.  I’m sure that they would have soon decided on their own that they wanted to try riding the trains solo if I had just waited a few more months.  But I didn’t, and they spent a very proud afternoon telling everyone how it was no big deal to take the train without me.

Final note to self: Sometimes even when you do everything wrong, the day turns out just lovely.

About Tara Edelschick

Right now, Tara is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is sleeping more, and exercising and flossing every day for the first time in her life. She is enjoying her husband, her boys, and Nafisa (the daughter she never had) more than she ever has. And she is learning to rest in the arms of the one who doesn't rank you based on how many things you can cross off your list at the end of the day. Follow her on Twitter@TaraWonders.

  • Peter

    Homeschooling: I have clients that were home schooled. Unfortunately, it often does not work out well. While there may be successfully schooled homeschooled kids, what becomes of the one that don’t turn out well?

    Subway riding alone at 9 and 10 years of age: I rode the subways in New York for years. I don’t think I’d let my 11 year-old daughter ride one by herself. I am not a “helicopter parent” or overly protective. Too many bad things can happen that would drive me crazy with fear at her age. When she is a teen, then she’ll be old enough. In my opinion your boys and my daughter are too young to be doing it now.

    • Tara Edelschick

      HI Peter. I was wondering how I would feel about the NYC subway. It feels a lot more daunting than Boston. But I know people do it, even with kids as young as mine.

      As for your question, I guess I wonder what becomes of all of the children for whom traditional school doesn’t work out well. Many, many children fail in or are failed by our schools. Perhaps it’s a matter of fit? No one schooling options works for everyone?

      Thanks for writing!

      • Peter

        The problem I see with the homeschooling concept is that in some states at least, the alleged standards by which homeschooling supposedly operates are not adequate nor enforced. I have clients that can barely read or write who were home schooled by parents who didn’t want to send their kids to public schools because they wanted to control the environment in which their kids existed much more strongly than that would allow. It wasn’t that their kids would have been failed by public schools, rather it was the parents had religious or ideological objections.

        What we are faced with with by many who want to home school is not a desire to help a kid who might be failed by public schools, but instead parents who are unwilling to have their kids participate in society at large for their own reasons. Unfortunately, I have run across young people whose parents had no business trying to home school their kids because they were incapable of doing so competently.

        As a society we can improve public schools and fix those that fail. For the good of the children, our nation and the world, we should not tolerate bad schools. We should likewise not tolerate incompetent homeschool situations. I guess what I am saying is that for the good of the kids, homeschooling needs to be closely regulated. That entails governmental interference, but how else do we protect the kids from a life long handicap?

        Subways: Yes, the New York City system is huge. That was my point of reference. It would be very daunting for any child to navigate it alone at the tender ages of our respective kids. I don’t really know the Boston system, so forgive my ignorance on that point.

  • Ann Boyd

    Tara, I have been thinking about this very thing: “the balance between encouraging your kids to take risks and supporting their own sense of boundaries.” I love it that you gave your kids an extra push, even if it meant bribery! Maybe I can use that tactic to get our girls to go into the basement for a box of cereal without me. :)

    • Tara Edelschick

      Ha! I love it. Zach still hates going into the basement alone.