Originally Posted by EnviroBecca
Mommybree, I feel that gradually taking charge of my own well-being was one of the most wonderful things about childhood. It was so exciting to ride my bike all the way around the whole block by myself and see that I could take care of myself and find my way home. The first time I fell and skinned my knee when no adult was watching, the thrill of going into the house and washing and bandaging the scrape all by myself and getting myself a cheer-up cookie
just about made up for the pain. The key is for these things to be gradual. If you don't let your children take care of themselves at all until they're 16, then expect them to learn to do everything for themselves in the next 2 years, it'll be a lot harder for them to learn and will seem less pleasant because they'll be "spoiled" by having had everything done for them, IMO.
The summer after 7th grade (and then again after 8th) I participated in ISYM (http://www.music.uiuc.edu/isym/index.html
). Back then, participants were housed in the residence hall FAR, and that name was an ironic joke because it was the FURTHEREST residence hall on the Champaign/Urbana campus from just about everything else. (I also recall the camp was two weeks long, back then, compared to the one week sessions they now appear to have.)
All us kids had to do was show up at our weekday ensembles/practices and our two required evening performances, and be back in our rooms by lights out. Any time not occupied by those requirements was ours to do as we pleased. I spent that time all over the Champaign/Urbana area.
So, at age 12, I basically lived "on my own" for two weeks with minimal supervision, all over a smallish urban area. When my clarinet lost a pad during a practice, one of my instructors gave me me the name of a shop, directions on how to get there on the bus system, and sent me on my way. So, I had to make my way there, negotiate having my instrument repaired ASAP, and get myself back.
It was one of the best experiences of my life.
But my parents had also well-prepared me for participating in something like that--by 12, I had a far amount of travelling freedom around the areas in which we lived.
So, sometime before age 9: I was allowed to ride my bike all over our Chicago neighborhood, bounded by a box 1-1.5 miles in all directions. When it was warm, I/we also walked or biked the 1 mile to/from school, and had been doing that for several years. (Sometimes it was just me, sometimes it was me and sibs, sometimes me and friends.)
Age 9: I learned how to ride CTA buses, and go to the pool with friends.
Age 10: moved to suburbs, and I remember being all over our suburb on my bike within days of moving in.
Age 11: Could ride my bike the 2+ miles to Aqua and the library.
Age 12: Spent those two weeks in Champaign/Urbana and learned how to deal with downtown Chicago on my own.
And this was all the late 1980s, which I can't really call any safer a time than we are in now. And I think my parents appropriately built up my freedom and responsibilities over time, and I hope to do it the same way with le kid. It's not going to be the same, because our situation isn't the same (unfortunately, our area is pretty "boxed in" by roads I wouldn't feel safe crossing as a pedestrian or bicyclist right now).
I don't really care about people who want to be more paranoid about it, until they start calling me neglectful or irresponsible for following what I believe to be a responsible course. Unfortunately that seems to be far more common nowadays than in the past.