Our son is 11 and off to high school next year...After many practises of walking home, with him leading the way over the many roads and crossings, it finally came time to let him walk home by himself, while I took his brother to an appointment. He was pleased he could finally do it, being one of the last in his class allowed to.
However, I stressed about it all day (from 5 am!!), thinking all the unlikely but minutely possible terrible outcomes that could occur. Intellectually, I knew that I was being unrealistic, and that next year he'd have to cross roads and get buses as well, so better to start now and get him used to finding his way about, but I could not shake the nerves.
At 2.30, a friend rang to see if I could take his child that afternoon as he wouldn't make it to school on time and I was secretly relieved that my son would have company on his first unaccompanied trek. I rang my husband to let him know that Louis would be walking with our son, and how relieved I was that fate had helped me out with my anxiety, only to discover my normally sensible husband was equally worked up about it. Neither of us had expected the emotional intensity of something so simple as walking home from school. We know we have to do it, but the 'letting go' is such a giant step for us parents.
I gave my son the key and off they went, without so much as a goodbye. The journey on foot takes 30 minutes and he was to ring me when he got in. At 3.30 on the dot, I rang home but no answer...I knew realistically that they'd still be walking home but in my mind ran all the 'he's been hit by a car' scenarios...3.35 he rang and all returned to normal in my head.
I explained later to my son that all the worry, and that we were slower than the other parents to let him do it, was not because we didn't trust him or because we didn't think he was responsible enough to do it, but because it was a huge step for us, his parents, to let go of one of our most precious things. Thankfully he understood (and thought it was funny) and I am glad he knows it's more to do with us than him... I never realised how difficult it would be for me, and I see now a whole lot of much harder 'firsts' to come. Not to mention the same again with child 2 and 3....This parenting gig is much harder than I realised, the older they get, especially when the kids aren't around!