Scene One: A family is driving through their small town. A mother is at the wheel, her daughter is sitting in the front seat; her son is in the back. As the mother approaches a stop sign she turns to her daughter.
Mother: Do you think you could walk to choir from here? It’s not very far, and it would make it so much easier for me to get home.
Daughter: [Shrugs] Sure. Bye, Mom. [She exits the vehicle, and confidently crosses the street. She raises her hand to wave goodbye, and then walks down the hill without looking back.]
Scene Two: The same mother, daughter, and vehicle. They’re heading to a thrift store. The mother puts on a Spotify playlist through the car’s Bluetooth speaker.
Daughter: What’s the name of this song?
Mother: Joy by Andy Grammer. Do you like it?
Daughter: Yes. [She’s in the front seat, so she can access all the media controls – she turns up the volume.]
A few minutes later, a different song.
Daughter: What’s the name of this song?
Mother: Love Broke Thru by TobyMac. Do you like it?
[She rummages through the center console to find a pad of paper and pen. She proceeds to write down the name of almost every song on her mother’s Spotify playlist.]
Scene Three: At the thrift store.
Daughter: What do you think of these shoes?
[The mother looks down at the glitter shoes with a tiny – but perceptible – wedge heel on her daughter’s feet, not sure how to respond.]
Scene Four: The mother is trying on clothes; the daughter is sitting outside the change room on a wooden chair.
Mother [under her breath]: What I really want to find is some new-to-me shoes.
[Seconds later, several pairs of shoes slide under the curtain.]
Daughter: I found some in your size. What do you think?
Scene Five: The mother and daughter are back in their car, on the way home from the thrift store.
Daughter: I really need to use the washroom.
Mother: Hmmm. Do you think you can make it home?
Daughter: Yeah, I can.
Mother: Actually, let’s just stop at the gas station by the traffic lights. Can you run in by yourself while I find a parking spot? I’ll be waiting right outside when you’re done. Do you think you can find the bathroom okay?
[A few minutes later the daughter emerges. She proceeds to buckle herself in – of course she buckles herself because, one day (a day the mother can’t recall specifically), this daughter stopped needing a 5-point-harness or a booster seat.]
Daughter [Picks up her notepad and continues to work on her playlist]: Don’t worry, I washed my hands.
Daughter: Can you put that Joy song back on, please?
Scene Six: At the family home. The son opens the entryway door. He has walked home from supper at a friend’s house.
Mother: Hi, honey! How was supper?
Son [Taking off his shoes and lining them up somewhat neatly]: Oh, it was good. I’m hungry.
Mother: Didn’t you have enough to eat?
Son: I had a huge bowl of lentil soup. It was good.
Mother: And you’re still hungry?
Son: Mom, I’m always hungry.
Mother [Quiet sigh]: Okay. What would you like to eat?
Son: I think I’d like some scrambled eggs.
[He walks to the fridge, opens it, and locates an egg carton. While the mother puts the pan on low heat and adds a dollop of butter, the son opens a cupboard door to get the folding stool. He sets the stool up in front of the stove. He cracks two eggs, puts the empty shells back into the egg carton neatly and then slowly scrambles both eggs in the pan.]
Son [Several minutes later]: There. Perfect.
[He gets off his stool and rummages in a different cupboard for some tortilla wraps. He hops onto the counter to get a plate, locates a bag of shredded cheese in the refrigerator and sprinkles cheese very deliberately over the tortilla, making sure there is even coverage. He walks to the microwave, heats the tortilla until the cheese is melted, adds a healthy portion of eggs, squirts on a line of ketchup, folds up his wrap and carries his plate to the dining room table.]
[They both sit at the table, the mother and her son.]
Son [Between bites]: Wow. This is really good. [The mother and son talk until he finishes his wrap.] I’m going to go make another one.
[The son repeats the process, solo, while the mother sits at their dining room table and watches her son maneuver around the kitchen. The bittersweet reality of the moment is palpable. After the son finishes his second wrap he loads his dirty plate (the mother has to remind him to do this) into the dishwasher and goes to his bedroom to put on two-piece dinosaur pajamas.]
To Be Continued…
Your turn. Do you have vivid memories of major independence milestones from your childhood? If you have kids, how does independence factor into your parenting experience these days – are 5-point harnesses a distant memory or a current reality?
Header photo by Abdul Azeez Garbadeen on Unsplash