Is Your Tot Autonomous? It's All Good, if He Is

I'm starting to think maybe I wasn't such a good mom.

It seems that tots who are more autonomous tend to, later in life, have higher cognitive skills (I think that means they're smarter), according to a new study.

When my son was young, I didn't let him do anything alone.  (He didn't want to, but that wasn't because of me, right?)  I kept an eagle eye on him no matter where he was, except for the one time I was in the kitchen and he climbed up on a car seat we happened to have in the house in the family room and it tipped over, crashing his head into the glass table (only one stitch, and they were able to glue it).  Maybe that's one of the reasons I decided never to leave him alone again. 

Even once he went to school.  (On the first day of kindergarten, I actually let him go on the bus.  But that was because we had a whole slew of kids at the bus stop and the older ones tended to look out for the younger ones.)

I remember the day in first grade he wasn't on the bus coming home.  I flew home (running a half-mile from the bus stop, my heart in my throat), jumped in my car and raced to the school, where he was sitting comfortably in the office, being entertained by the principal.  He was perfectly fine.  I was the one who cried, walking him out.

Then there were all the birthday parties.  He didn't want me to leave him.  So I stayed with him, through all the ice cream cakes and Doritoes, wondering if I did take it a little too far.  (But that cake was so good.)

Autonomy support includes things such as teaching children problem-solving skills, but why does he need that?  He has me.   

I myself have always been autonomous, going to Hawaii all by myself, and the Bahamas, when no one I knew could get time off.  Why stay home when I had the time and the money?  (Though I met the people who would introduce me to my husband in the Bahamas, the only thing I brought back with me -- it rained almost day in both Hawaii and the Bahamas -- was strep throat.)

I did get a little better, with my son.  There was the four-day, three-night trip the fifth graders took upstate.  Even when I heard that the first night, the boys were up all night, lights on, music blasting (this, in fifth grade!), I still didn't go and bring him home, like some moms did.  In the end, he had a fantastic time and I was glad I left him alone.  But I didn't leave his side the whole rest of the weekend, and I bugged other moms endlessly for photographs because he didn't bring a camera.

Then there was middle school.  In the beginning, I walked him to the door every day.  (In sixth grade they're not yet embarrassed by their parents.)   In seventh grade he told me less and less about his day In sixth grade, he'd had a girlfriend, which I only learned about from the other parents, but in seventh, everyone was mum.  Moms didn't tell me anything because maybe they didn't know, either.

And now eighth grade?  When I ask how school was, all I get is, "Boring."  I barely know who his teachers are.  One day recently we were walking down the hall after school (he let me go with him to drop off a late assignment'; he was a little afraid of the teacher), and a pretty young girl said, "Hi, Phillip."

"Who was that?" I said as soon as we were down the hall.  "No one," he said.  I guess that thing about autonomy?  He's graduated, big time.


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