Ashley Scroggins is one of the two runner-up winners of the Let Grow Independence Challenge Essay Contest for Parents. We asked folks to tell us how they got up the guts to give their kids some independence and what happened when they did. For her story, Ashley’s getting a $50 prize — and some plain old pride.
Where were we?
I’m the mother of 7-year-old twin boys, Theo and Van. One day, we went on a family bike ride in our neighborhood, but down some streets they had never been on before. Very randomly, Theo got very scared, almost in tears, thinking we were lost, even though I was with him. He asked if I had my phone so we could look up where we were on maps.
And that’s when I realized they didn’t know our neighborhood as well as I thought they did.
So — how DO kids learn their way around?
It made me feel like maybe they didn’t actually have the freedom to explore that I thought they did, but it also got me thinking about my own childhood. As a military brat, I had to learn a new neighborhood every couple of years. I have memories of easily navigating different streets with friends, but no memories of the discovery. So, how did I do it?
After talking about it with the boys, we decided that they would each take turns after dinner either walking one of our dogs or riding their bikes by themselves to discover a different street in our neighborhood. Van had no issues with this request and was so excited to take it on. Theo, who’d had the initial concerns about being lost was still nervous. So he opted to walk the dog because our address was on her collar, and he thought that would help him find his way back. Very endearing.
Bonus: confidence, pride, fun.
At bed time, we always talk about our favorite things about the day, what we’re grateful for, and what we’re proud of. On that first night of this new assignment and with no hesitation, they both beamed and said that they were most proud of traversing the neighborhood by themselves.
It’s been a few weeks now of this little nightly assignment and instead of it becoming mundane, it’s a highlight. Sometimes they’ll even turn it into a game. One time they created a map and left objects (like a painted rock) for the other to find. Other times they’ll take chalk and leave messages for each other.
I’m impressed and inspired by their ingenuity and strength. And I love that they’re starting to feel that this is THEIR neighborhood!