When Nathan was 7, I stuck a $5 bill in his pocket and sent him to the grocery story for a gallon of milk. It was only a block away and we lived in the sort of town where, if he walked down the middle of the street to get there, any drivers coming by would have followed him with flashers glowing.
But the look on his face when he got home was priceless. "I felt so grown up!" he told me, handing over the milk and the change.
I thought about Nathan today when I heard about Lenore Skenazy. She gave her 9-year-old son a $20 bill, a subway map, a MetroCard and let him come home in New York City via the subway.
He made it, exuberant. But Lenore has been loudly criticized by the helicopter parents, who hover and rescue at every opportunity. It made me think. How would a follower of Jesus look at the issue?
I gotta be honest, I don't see our Heavenly Father as a helicopter parent. He could have dived right in when Eve talked to the serpent. He could have sent in a servant to block David's view from the roof of the palace. Jesus would have snagged the rich young man rather than letting him walk away.
God lets us make mistakes and then, in his mysterious and impossible way, molds mistakes into growth in our lives.
So what does that mean to us as parents? Lenore knew there were risks for her son. But she trusted his good judgment and ability to think things through.
"I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn't do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, 'Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I'll abduct this adorable child instead.'" Lenore wrote.
Lenore believes we have allowed fear to paralyze us as parents - and to disarm our children in the process. She now has a blog to examine her ideas about Free Range kids.
This is an important concept to me as a follower of Jesus. I want my children to learn judgment, discernment and trust. I believe in allowing them to make mistakes and helping them sort through the pieces. This is not an easy world to navigate. Our children, if they are going to make a courageous walk with the Father, must know how to get along. And they must know we believe they can learn to do it.
Just as our Father does with us.