I don't have a problem with that. I've laid down some ground rules for him.
- When I say stop, he has to stop on the dime. I usually tell him to stop before he gets to an active driveway or to the corner/end of the sidewalk.
- He stays a certain distance in front of me (he can never be behind me).
- In busy areas or to cross the street he has to hold my hand or get into the stroller.
- Stay as far away from the curb as possible.
Z1 is a little guy with boundless energy and what I've found is that giving him that little freedom to run it off really, really helps him. (It also helps that, bless his soul, he is not a fast runner. In fact, I like to joke that he looks like he's pretending to run when he's in fact running full speed--not to his hearing of course!) What I've also found is how much society frowns on everything. I can't tell you how many folks say to him, "Wait for your mother" when I'm not shouting or screaming at him to wait for me. Others say, "Hold his hand . . . it's too dangerous."
Now, I'll admit there's some risk to letting him walk on his own but really the biggest risk is him running out into the street. But we've really covered the dangers of the street and how to cross a street safely and furthermore, the condition of him walking is that he stops when I say stop. And I say stop well before he gets to the street corner to let momentum catch up. He has always stopped. There might be a time in the future when I tell him to stop and he won't stop but I'm guessing it's the kid who's been forced to hold mom's hand all the time that will go buck wild and run into the street at his first opportunity.
Anyway, it's quite hilarious to me that so many folks have things to say. Z2 is still in the stroller so usually I'm pushing him and letting Zion do his thing. I generally take the double stroller just in case Z1 gets tired or something. When Z1 is riding in the stroller, it's endless comments about how he's just too big to be in a stroller--that he should be walking. Even the harness buddy garnered me some commentary and nasty looks ("Just let him walk"). (((big eye roll here))) What exactly do you people want from me? Leave me alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Just the other day, I dropped into the health food store just to get a patty for Z1. It was raining and the rain cover was over the stroller (both children were in the stroller). A woman walks in, "You know, that's very dangerous--you should take the plastic off or they could suffocate." Really? So I'm putting my kids in mortal danger here? Wow . . . Z1 is almost 4 and can take the damn cover off himself. Z2 constantly peels apart the velcro that seals the cover to peek out at me and smile--he doesn't seem to mind getting wet doing it either.
I'm not really sure what the expectation is but as a mother, I know that everyone thinks they know and you don't. I know people say they want to help but no, I don't think that's really true. Maybe I'm just a cynic but I think folks just love to feel superior to someone else any chance they get. "I would never let my child do that" and "What kind of mother does that?" I get it. We all judge. But in the arena of raising kids, it seems to be a judgment free-for-all.
Maybe if my town had a decent playground to walk to, I'd have a different take on the matter. I know Z1 would agree to hold my hand for 10 minutes if it meant 45 to 60 minutes of free play but that's not the reality. We walk around town for pleasure and for exercise and I just can't see how it's fair to make a 4 year old boy hold my hand all.the.time.
Anyway, I'm always self-reflective on what I allow my kids to do and why I'm insistent on some things and lenient on others. In this instance, I think we'll keep things the way they are.
Photo Credit: "I want to hold your hand" by Matt McGee on Flickr.com