miss dependence

There was a blogosphere discussion a month or two ago about independence–and how much to give kids, when. Most of that discussion centered around kids who were largely younger than mine to elementary school-aged kids. I can’t remember exactly where it started–I know that at one point,  Jody weighed in.

The thing it got me thinking about was not so much about what independence to grant my kids, but how much my kids–the Bee in particular–cling to dependence. And wondering what it is that we’re doing or not doing to encourage that clinging.

I”m not really sure at what point I should push the Bee to do things like stay at home by herself for 20 minutes while I run to the store, or getting her to walk over to a friend’s house a couple of blocks away, instead of me walking her there. It’s a delicate balance, the giving of independence.

It’s delicate partly because I trust the Bee to be by herself in the house for 20 minutes. But I don’t trust her to stay in the house with the Potato for 20 minutes. Part of that is due to my own history as a big sister who got left in charge of her little brothers a ridiculous number of times. But most of that lack of trust is based on the fact that they escalate their fights so incredibly quickly–in fact, for a while, I was leaving them alone in the car while I went to the ATM–but stopped because every single time I came back, they were punching each other.

I can’t tell how I can give the message, “hey, I trust you,” without it coming off like, “hey, I trust you…but not that much.” So what ends up happening is that the only time I try to push her to be more independent is when he’s at school and she’s home, or he’s at a playdate or something.

And don’t worry, I know that soon enough, I won’t have to fret about how to get her to push for more independence.


April 5, 2009. thoughtful parenting.


  1. Carrie replied:

    I guess I don’t see the problem of giving the message of “I trust you to stay at home by yourself but I don’t trust you to be alone with your brother.” She should know that she fights with her brother. I was an oldest sibling as well and my sister and I fought like cats and dogs. I don’t remember having any weird thoughts about being left by myself but not being left wih my sister (though I guess I mainly thought it was for my own protection).

  2. Jessica replied:

    Ack…this is hard.

    I wish I would have had more insight when my kiddo (now 18) was on the verge of this type of independence. Granted, there are still limits/guidelines I am negotiating now but it is so important at that young, developmental age….I was too young to question it the way you are.

  3. Library Lady replied:

    I don’t think Bee is old enough to be in charge of her brother. More importantly, I don’t think Potato is big enough to be left in her charge!

    Nowadays on a school holiday, I can go to work for the day and leave SC in charge. But my two are a lot older than yours (JR is Bee’s age, SC is 14 now) and I didn’t start letting SC stay at home with her for more than 15 minutes or so until a year or two ago.
    Plus I’m only 15 minutes from home, and I’m never far from the phone!

    It’s funny though–my kids fight more when I’m home then when I’m not there–kind of like our cats 😀
    They spat–I’ve had phone calls of “Mom–SC is being mean” or “Mom, JR won’t listen”, but overall, I think that SC takes on being responsible for her sister and handles it well.

    Staying home alone is another matter. SC started doing it when she was 10 or 11–at 11 I let her walk home from school and be home on her own for a bit. But JR (almost 10) is still a bit wary. I can leave her and go out for 10 or 15 minutes, but I haven’t tried anything more. Yet.

  4. the five-year mark « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] bee trophy. The kids staged their first demonstration. And I worried about how to push the Bee out of the nest, a tiny little […]

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