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Young boys chasing a soccer ball

Giving Independence to School-Aged Kids

My eldest child continues to lead the charge into unknown parenting territory for me.

Jackson wants so much independence, and it’s been challenging to find what feels right. He’s 10 now and halfway through fourth grade; in his mind, he’s basically an adult. In my mind, I see him as the little boy walking into preschool.

He has a large group of neighborhood friends he wants to play with at the playground. He can cook things himself and asks to often. He wants to make his own money by cutting grass, washing cars or pet sitting.

Of course I want him to continue to grow, but in a safe space and at the right pace. Even with Jackson’s tendency to be a rule follower, choosing the right opportunities to discover, explore and be his own person is tough (for me).

What is the right amount of freedom? It’s different for every child and family.

For me, loosening the reins on him took time. His friends were riding their bikes farther than him for a good year before I let him ride along.

These days, he gets to play outside, ride his bike around the “big loop” of our townhouse community and walk to school with friends. This new freedom comes with the steep price tag of Mommy’s trust.

If he doesn’t have at least one friend to walk to school with him in the morning, he has to ride the bus.

If he answers my call in for dinner with anything other than “I’m coming!” – he loses outdoor play the next day.

This week, when he came in all muddy and winded from playing touch football, he washed his own clothes.

He has to be in bed by 8:30 p.m. on school nights, but he can play on his Kindle until 9:00 p.m.

Mommy doesn’t play.

A few months ago I got him a refurbished iPhone. He doesn’t get to put any apps on it or use the Internet. The phone charges in my kitchen so I can check it every night. He can only call or text people in his “favorites list” – which is family only. This has been a wonderful way for me to keep track and in touch with him.

Independence is a good thing! Yes, it might be challenging when we’re not ready yet. But ready or not, time marches on.

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About Jessica Woolwine

About Jessica   Woolwine Jessica Woolwine is a native of Hampton Roads and lives in Hampton with her three “miracles” Jackson (9), Abby (5) and Henry (1). As a mother to a childhood cancer survivor and a micro-preemie, she began the blog Mothering Miracles in 2014 to support other families dealing with health issues. Jessica also works as Creative Director for Rubin Communications Group and enjoys mixing her talents for graphic design and creative writing with community relations. She is a past member of both the CHKD Family Advisory Council and the CHKD NICU Family Advisory Council.