The Long Walk

The other day I saw a young mom watching her son head down the street. He was walking to school alone for the very first time. She said he had insisted that he was a big boy, and she didn’t have to walk him to school anymore. She was standing on the sidewalk, keeping a Mama Bear eye on her Cub. Eventually, he got to the end of the block, turned the corner, and passed out of sight. She heaved a huge sigh, and with tears in her eyes, went back into the house.

It took me back to the days when my boys went off to school alone for the first time. My son Jeffrey, who is very independent, went off on his own. Kevin, the life of the party, headed down the street with a couple of buddies, talking excitedly about the latest episode of Batman, the Animated Series. I was able to watch them as they headed down the street to the cut-through, the path that led to the school playground. Even though it was only 10 houses away, I still had that same uneasy feeling that young mom had when my boys passed out of sight.

Nowadays, it’s really hard for helicopter parents to let go. Terrifying security videos of children being snatched in plain sight just makes it worse. But children taken by strangers or slight acquaintances represent only one-hundredth of 1 percent of all missing children. Parents get so used to watching their child’s every waking moment, those first steps of independence can be very hard on them. Don’t worry Mama and Papa Bear, it does get easier. Before you know it, you’ll be an old pro and ready for the next milestone. Watching your son or daughter drive solo for the first time. Take it from me, it will happen before you know it. For now, just take a deep breath, wipe away the tears, and head back into the house.

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