Saturday, May 30, 2009

Squirrel Children

Right now, my daughter is glaring at me from the rocking chair in the living room between watching episodes of Sponge Bob. She is clearly not speaking to me. (This will only last until she gets hungry)

Normally, television would not be allowed on a perfectly beautiful day, but I am letting this one go. We just got back from our first tween moment.

I was outside at ten o'clock this morning, trying to figure out what, exactly, had to be done to our yard to make it not look like a DMZ. Emma told me some friends had just texted her and wanted her to join them for lunch. I said fine since the McDonalds is only about two blocks away.

When the time came, I drove her there. About six girls sat at the table. They are all around 10, some have recently turned 11, and one girl's eight year old sister sat there. I sat at an adjoining table and waited.

"When are you leaving?" Emma whispered.

"Leaving? This is a public place. Which moms are here?"

"None. They rode here on their bikes. Mom, c'mon. I'm fine."

Emma said she had to use the bathroom and motioned me over to her, around the corner where the girls couldn't see her. "Please, Mom, it's 12 o'clock now, can't you come back around 1?"

We went back and forth. I was shocked that these kids, all bright girls, all in different types of gifted programs at the elementary school, had parents who let them bike around town without supervision and sit in public places.

"You are like the most over protective mom in the world. Everyone in my class knows that." She looked near tears.

Maybe she was right. I am one of the class moms, go on all the trips, go to all the parties and "supervise activities" which is really just an excuse to keep an eye on my own kid. Both my boys have always complained that I am overly protective.

"On one condition," I said, "you keep your phone on, answer it the second I call. And only for half an hour."

I could see by her expression that she never thought I would say yes, even for thirty minutes. She did run back to me once before returning to the table: "Don't just sit in the back and stalk me, okay?" (Philip taught her that word, but if you read this blog, you probably suspected that already)

I went to a nearby drug store, bought some stuff I didn't need, and returned to her table at 12:27. She wasn't there. Before calling 911, I called Emma.

"Oh," she said breezily, "Abby's mother came and picked us up. I'm at Abby's house."

"Did Abby's mother know I was picking you up?"

She gave me Abby's address. I drove there and met Abby's mom. I should have just picked Emma up, thanked her, and driven home. I know, I know.

But I asked Abby's mom how long the pack of girls had been biking around town.

"Since the spring." She saw my shocked expression. "They're fine," she said, and waved her hand, "they have cell phones."

"I always feel I'll listen to my daughter's abduction via the cell phone. They just don't make me feel safe."

Abby's mom opened her eyes very wide at me. Emma tugged at my shirt.

"They have a lot of fun going from house to house. I think they would call in plenty of time before they were in any real danger."

"They go from house to house?" I asked.

Abby's mom nodded. "All the time."

"Sort of like how squirrels spend their day, isn't it?"

I didn't turn around to see how Abby's mom felt about that statement. Emma and I got in the car.

"I cannot believe you said that thing about squirrels, Mom."

"But it's true, Emma. You are ten years old. You can't just go around to people's houses and sit in restaurants by yourselves."

"Last weekend Abby's mom drove them to the mall and they were there for three hours, just them."

"In the mall? That will..."

"I know," Emma fumed, putting her hands over her ears, "I can't ever do it. I know. I'm just going to not talk to you for the rest of today, ok?"

(I love that she qualified her declaration with that little ok)

So far, she has kept her fairly polite word. I just gave her a dish of ice cream which she accepted in a distant, regal way. SpongeBob is singing, "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" and she is cracking up. The whole scene, the princess ice cream dish, the miniature chair, the cartoon, all make her seem so young and so very, very vulnerable. I just don't believe that she can be unleashed yet.


Bish Denham said...

Of course when I was kid, and because of where we lived, my sister and I were much pretty free to run around wherever we wanted. We couldn't have gotten into trouble if we had tried. And as for stranger/danger there wasn't any.

But in this day and age, I think you are right to keep an eye on her. It's called being an involved parent. I don't care how much kids may know these days, they're brains don't fully develop until the 20's, which makes them vulnerable to making stupid mistakes, to getting caught off guard.

Someday she may actually thank you. Be strong, be loving, be consistent, be there and both of you will probably be all right.

Christy Raedeke said...

I'm with you on this one! I think the cell phone defense is laughable and gives squirrel parents and their children a false sense of security.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm with you too. I think the age you let kids out can vary from child to child, but I didn't let my girls out with their friends at age ten, especially not on their bikes. In Scotland, they have to pass a cycling proficiency test before they're allowed to ride their bikes to school. We told our kids that once they passed this test, they could go out on their bikes on their own. And you're right about the cell phone thing too; people act as though having one of those is some kind of bullet proof shield. Ridiculous.

adrienne said...

My kids could happily commiserate with yours - I'm with you on this, too. And I'm surprised the girl's mom picked them up without calling you.

Anne Spollen said...

I know what you mean, Bish. I think boys' brains aren't developed until their 30's, but that's a whole 'nother blog. I remember roaming around the neighborhood and the beach, but I did have two older brothers around.
I worry that I am too involved. I instantly go to the disaster mode:
she'll get kidnapped/molested/both - but then again, times have changed.

I don't know, Mary. I think some of these Moms should pass a proficiency test before they get pregnant. I DO see little bands of Emma's friends at the mall, at the movie theater - no parents, no older siblings. The cell phone defense is used over and over. I just don't buy it. I want her to have a cell phone when she is with me - both.

I was stunned that Abby's mom did that, too, Adrienne. And I'm chaperoning a class trip this Friday - I am wondering if I am really being teamed up with her as Emma says, or if Emma is just kidding around. I'll bet she'll be just so glad to see me right there next to her...

brave chickens said...

It's kind of scary to see little 10 year olds running about, even if it's just house to house. Independance is a good thing, but this is scary O_o

Anne Spollen said...

Hi, brave chickens! Yes, I agree it is scary, and they are way too young to be given unsupervised time anywhere except in their rooms.

I do think everything is being "pushed down" though - the age for dating, being allowed to sleepover, all those things you used to wait for. I'm not sure why we are in such a hurry to shorten childhood.