The other day I asked some friends what they thought would be a good topic for the next Life in the Mom Lane. Overwhelmingly, the answer was “how old is old enough” for kids to do certain things. Well, I did visit this subject once before but, with some many requests; I am more than happy to take another look.
My initial article was prompted by a discussion with friends after I took my then eleven year old son to see The Dropkick Murphy’s in concert. Was it a good decision to bring him? Well, apparently it was because, since that evening, we have seen the band in concert again and had even more fun than the first time around.
Is every 11-year-old ready to go to a concert with his mom? Probably not. Is every concert appropriate? Again no. Did the event offer an opportunity to have a long discussion about song lyrics, appropriate language and behavior? You bet it did.
Cell phones are always a major topic in the how old is old enough discussion. As I have said in the past I am a big fan of kids with cell phones. In my opinion cell phones are, above and beyond anything else, a safety tool. Knowing that I can reach my son at any given point in time and he can, in turn, call me from wherever he is gives me peace of mind that I would, undoubtedly, not have under different circumstances.
Amazingly, he has had a phone for at least five years and, while it’s been misplaced a few times, it has never been lost, destroyed or damaged. The benefits have far outweighed the cost as far as I’m concerned.
On that same line of discussion a lot of moms talked about the decision to allow their son or daughter to walk to the local store with friends. This is, again, another situation where the sometimes criticized cell phone makes a huge difference.
I still remember the first time my son was allowed to walk to the local corner store and pizza shop. The walk is one mile on a sidewalk with one rather busy street to cross at the traffic lights.
As much as I wanted to drive alongside him or sneak down the street behind him I did not. Instead, I sent him off with a friend, cell phone in his pocket and instructions to text me when he arrived at the store and again when he was leaving.
Here again, technology is a true friend to a mom. I didn’t have to embarrass him by “tagging along” and he didn’t have to make the dreaded call to mom. He could quietly text me and not be forced to admit to calling his mother.
That being said I’m fairly certain the other boys had the very same set of rules. How old was he at the time? Around ten. Today, as he approaches thirteen, the same rules continue to apply. He is accustomed to simply checking in and making sure I know where he’s at and, frankly, doesn’t know any different.
Last week, however, I had to make one of those parental decisions that simply is not quite so cut and dry. I lost my cousin very suddenly and the question of my son attending the wake and funeral came up. He has been to both wakes and funerals before but this was a particularly painful loss of a woman who was exactly the same age as I am. Frankly, it was an incredibly difficult loss for an adult to face never mind a nearly 13-year-old kid.
After a little bit of thought I simply decided that the only one could make that choice was him. He decided to attend and, in the long run, I think it was the best decision he could have made. Would it be the right one for every kid? Absolutely not. Was it right for him? Yes.
Kids don’t come with a “how to” manual. Parents can’t open up a “Raising Kids for Dummies” book and get all the right answers.
What we can do, however, is learn that all kids are different and each one is ready for different experiences at completely different times in their life. I truly believe the key to knowing when a kid is ready for any particular milestone is simply taking the time to truly know our child and having faith that our instincts will guide us through.