My son’s 5th grade class is studying plant life in science. They’re learning how plants grow, produce food, and reproduce. This week, he was being tested on these concepts and he asked me to help him to study by quizzing him on his vocabulary words and plant life concepts.
One of the statements on the study guide they received read, “Plants grow best when seeds are scattered away from the mother plant.” And I thought, “this is true for kids as well.” At some point, these little sprouts need to move away from the shade of the mother tree and bask in their own sunlight, make their own food, and figure out how to grow on their own. While it’s next to impossible to do that when their babies – we’re clearly responsible for keeping them alive – once kids have developed a bit of a root system, they thrive when they’re on their own.
This is where we are. And I think he’s ready.
He’s old enough to walk the half-mile to school, to advocate for himself to his teachers and coaches, and to stay alone at home for an hour while I run to the store. And I have to step back and let him be – be independent, make mistakes and (hopefully) learn from them. And he likes it – independence, he says, makes him feel that we trust him and trust his decision making.
But it’s scary and the older he gets, the higher the stakes become. Riding his bike to his friend’s house a few blocks away will become driving to a party in another town. Choosing water over soft drinks will become choosing a soda over a beer. By advocating for himself in school and on the field, he’ll learn to stand up for himself and others and develop the confidence he needs to speak his mind. I hope.
I can only let him develop into who he’s going to be and give him the room he needs to find out who his is. And like a plant, he can turn to face the sun when he’s ready to grow, but know that he can also bend towards the steadfast tree in the shade when he needs to be nurtured.