The other day I read this article and considering where we are at right now it really resonated with me. When my kids are here, in Central America, they are totally completely free. I often get asked if it's "safe" in Costa Rica and I have to laugh because down here is the only time that I feel as though my kids are completely safe. There is no of driving in cars on busy highways. No crossing of traffic filled streets or dim dim lit alleys to walk by on the way home from dinner. No mass shootings. While petty theft is a concern, I would imagine that there are more thefts in my sleepy Cambridge neighborhood on a weekly basis than they probably see here in a year. In short, I feel completely comfortable letting my boys run free while we are in country.
Last week my mother- in-law and I left Gray sitting on the beach while we walked a few hundred yards out of sight to get coconuts and simply gestured to my father-in- law in the water that we were leaving him on the beach. The little man often walks home alone, ahead of us (something I wouldn't dare let him do at home given the hurried drivers in our neighborhood and the number of cross streets) and we don't even give these things a second thought. I will often remark when my husband and I are walking alone through the jungle and down the beach in complete darkness about how crazy it is that I feel so safe doing so and how I never feel the need to assess my surroundings. If I were at home, I would be constantly looking over my shoulder in the darkness, knowing that two people in the middle of no where who are a few cocktails in make for great targets.
The truth is that it home makes me feel more unsafe, which is why I feel the need to keep my boys so much closer. I feel so much terror when I'm driving the speed limit and a trator trailer crosses to quickly in front of me. Don't even get me started on how I pray that the LM breaks on his scooter, even though he has the right of way, when see a distracted driver rolling through a stop sign. It was less than two years ago that my city was bombed (which I still can't get my head around) and it's in those times that I want to grab my babies and hide under the covers. The thing is, I feel like it is so important for us to allow our kids to have the kind of free childhood that we had, and while I'm so grateful that my boys have the opportunity they do to run wild down here I just wish I could feel comfortable letting them do a little more running in their daily lives.
Don't get me wrong, my husband and I are not what you would call "helicopter" parents. In fact we are probably just the opposite. He would be the first to let the LM walk to the corner store to get an ice cream, something that I once chided him for given the major street he would have to cross in-between and I am definitely relaxed in my parenting style. Unlike my husband I think I am a lot more worried about what other people think of me, and my parenting of my kids. It really all started a few years back when I would often let the LM stay at the park in front of our house (which I can see from our front facing windows) with some of the older kids while I would go in and tend to a newborn Gray. I thought nothing of it, and his only rule was that he would have to yell for me to make sure he was safe to cross the street, which was my only concern. After a few months of this our babysitter came home from the library one day and told me that she was confronted by another mother about my doing this. Something to the effect of "I can't believe she lets him stay out there alone." That unexpected judgement was so jarring for me and while my initial reaction to outside time is to grab a blanket and my phone or book and let the boys run wild, I now find myself feeling like I have to stand over them, lest someone thinks I'm being neglectful. Clearly this is more and issue for me than them, but It definitely makes me question whether I am making the right call sometimes.
It's funny, I started to write this post this morning and then this afternoon my husband and I took the LM out on some huge rocks to see the waves crash. As his mother I kept saying "be careful" more for my own good than his, and he turned to both of us and said, I kid you not, "adventure makes me happy." Really, what can I say to that? Him being happy is all I can ask for, and I really want to try to keep some of the sprit when we return to our everyday, less protected lives. I really want to remember this when he's climbing too tall trees at the playground, or when Gray is fighting with some kid over a shovel. It's so important that these little guys learn boundaries on their own, just like we all did, and I hope as a parent I am able to allow better them this freedom. Oh, and we will always have Costa Rica... the land of the free (child).