The Let Grow Independence Challenge Essay Contest asked parents to share a story of a time they let go — even reluctantly — because they knew their kids were ready for a little less leash. Here is one dad’s tale of Nutella and new freedom:
By Mario Montag
It was an unusually low-key Saturday morning. We didn’t have to rush out the door for a soccer game or a birthday party. Sophia, 6, wanted Nutella on her pancakes — but we were out of it. She asked if we could go to Publix to purchase some.
I was not going to leave the comfort of a stress-free Saturday morning so the little princes could have her chocolate hazelnut spread! But I was game to compromise: I challenged Sophia with the proposition that I would driver her the half mile to our local Publix…if she went inside and purchased the Nutella herself.
Her eyes opened wide with a look equal parts excitement and panic. “Sure,” she replied. We got in the car and drove to the store in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta.
I parked and gave her my debit card and a $20 bill in case they did not want to take the card. She got out of the car and looked back at me, scared. “You can figure it out!” I called from the window. She entered the Publix hesitantly — but did not look back.
Me? I started watching the clock and waiting for a manager or security officer to charge out the store looking for the crazy parent who let a 6-year-old shop by herself.
But after about eight minutes, Sophia walked out with a huge smile on her face and skipped back to me. I had parked near the entrance to the store, fully expecting a riot to break out from inside. Sophia told me that she found the aisle with the Nutella. She could not reach it and asked another customer for help. The lady who got it down for her asked where her mom was and Sophia replied that her dad was outside waiting for her.
Sophia then went to pay and struggled to figure out to use the debit card. The cashier helped her, and the transaction was done. The bagger asked if she wanted a plastic bag, but Sophia declined it to save the planet from more plastic waste.
It was a great confidence-building experience for Sophia — and me! Since that sweet morning I have continued to let her grow more independent.
Mario is a Software exec for a startup who lives in Atlanta, GA. You would usually find him on his Peloton, celebrating his Latino heritage via food, spending time with the family, watching Formula One racing, or trying to improve his golf game.