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How Do Moms Know When Kids Are Old Enough?

Whether it be phones, funerals, or walking to the store with friends, when is a child old enough is the question many moms face.

The other day I asked some friends what they thought would be a good topic for the next Life in the Mom Lane. Overwhelmingly, the answer was “how old is old enough” for kids to do certain things. Well, I did visit this subject once before but, with some many requests; I am more than happy to take another look.

My initial article was prompted by a discussion with friends after I took my then eleven year old son to see The Dropkick Murphy’s in concert. Was it a good decision to bring him? Well, apparently it was because, since that evening, we have seen the band in concert again and had even more fun than the first time around.

Is every 11-year-old ready to go to a concert with his mom? Probably not. Is every concert appropriate? Again no. Did the event offer an opportunity to have a long discussion about song lyrics, appropriate language and behavior? You bet it did.

Cell phones are always a major topic in the how old is old enough discussion. As I have said in the past I am a big fan of kids with cell phones. In my opinion cell phones are, above and beyond anything else, a safety tool. Knowing that I can reach my son at any given point in time and he can, in turn, call me from wherever he is gives me peace of mind that I would, undoubtedly, not have under different circumstances.

Amazingly, he has had a phone for at least five years and, while it’s been misplaced a few times, it has never been lost, destroyed or damaged. The benefits have far outweighed the cost as far as I’m concerned.

On that same line of discussion a lot of moms talked about the decision to allow their son or daughter to walk to the local store with friends. This is, again, another situation where the sometimes criticized cell phone makes a huge difference. 

I still remember the first time my son was allowed to walk to the local corner store and pizza shop. The walk is one mile on a sidewalk with one rather busy street to cross at the traffic lights. 

As much as I wanted to drive alongside him or sneak down the street behind him I did not. Instead, I sent him off with a friend, cell phone in his pocket and instructions to text me when he arrived at the store and again when he was leaving.

Here again, technology is a true friend to a mom. I didn’t have to embarrass him by “tagging along” and he didn’t have to make the dreaded call to mom. He could quietly text me and not be forced to admit to calling his mother.

That being said I’m fairly certain the other boys had the very same set of rules. How old was he at the time? Around ten. Today, as he approaches thirteen, the same rules continue to apply. He is accustomed to simply checking in and making sure I know where he’s at and, frankly, doesn’t know any different.

Last week, however, I had to make one of those parental decisions that simply is not quite so cut and dry. I lost my cousin very suddenly and the question of my son attending the wake and funeral came up. He has been to both wakes and funerals before but this was a particularly painful loss of a woman who was exactly the same age as I am. Frankly, it was an incredibly difficult loss for an adult to face never mind a nearly 13-year-old kid.

After a little bit of thought I simply decided that the only one could make that choice was him. He decided to attend and, in the long run, I think it was the best decision he could have made. Would it be the right one for every kid?  Absolutely not. Was it right for him? Yes.

Kids don’t come with a “how to” manual. Parents can’t open up a “Raising Kids for Dummies” book and get all the right answers. 

What we can do, however, is learn that all kids are different and each one is ready for different experiences at completely different times in their life. I truly believe the key to knowing when a kid is ready for any particular milestone is simply taking the time to truly know our child and having faith that our instincts will guide us through.

Dawn Reidy October 09, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Christine, Thank you for putting your time into writing Life in the Mom Lane. Your column is well-written, positive and always fun to read. (I agree wholeheartedly with your approach to determining your son's readiness for various stages of independence.)
Christine Berry MacKenzie October 10, 2012 at 01:18 AM
I'd like to point out that when I was presented with the "format" for this column is was titled "life in the mom lane" and, therefore, meant to be written from a mom's point of view. That is not to say that Dad's aren't equally as important as moms, just to say that I am not, by any means, able to speak as one. I would be doing dads a disservice if I tried. At no point have I ever made a negative comment regarding dads in my writing and promise that I never will! In the past, Matt and I have both put out the call for a "Dad Blog" with no real success. I'd like to suggest that you send me an email here on PATCH and perhaps we can sit down over coffee. I would love to interview you for a "special life in the mom lane" filled with your opinions from a dads point of view. In the past I wrote Life in the Mom Lane, Sometimes you just have to laugh" which featured advice from a stand up comedian/dad/grandfather and it full of terrific advice. Please drop me a line and let me know when you are available.
Stephen Bowker October 10, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Stephen Bowker Just because it is called life in the mom lane does not mean you cannot substitute the word mom with the word dad. I am a regular reader of this column and enjoy it. Oh, by the way, I am a dad. I have a son and my family and I are going through similar situations that this column addresses. It is good to know that our children are normal and going through similar situations that other families and thier children are facing.
Melissa Erickson October 10, 2012 at 11:50 AM
These columns are definitely NOT anti-dad. I actually think it would be great to have a "Dad" column and they can agree, disagree and get more people involved in the discussion. Kind of like a rap battle...haha. Anyways I think the key message here is that EVERY child is different and what is good for the goose may not be good for the gander and it is not our place as parents to judge other parents for the decisions they make. Unfortunately it happens way too often and not just about kid topics (but that's another topic for another day). To paraphrase my favorite Dr. Seuss saying: Those that minds don’t matter and those that matter don't mind.
Jackie October 10, 2012 at 03:47 PM
As always, a great article and well written. A subject that we can all relate to , moms and dads. Keep doing what you are doing christine !! I always look forward to reading your articles !!

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