Sunday, March 20, 2016

Luca the Brave

Sure kids! Go play right down there by the road!
In case you missed it, I have a grandson. Luca is wonderfully smart and capable. He’s articulate, with an amazing ability to problem-solve and process information and he gets along well with others. And we’ve barely let him out of our sight for more than a minute for all of his four and a half years. Until last night.

There’s no need to worry . . . he wasn’t lost. And honestly, he has spent some time out of our sight; he plays in his room or goes to the bathroom without even one pair of eyes on him. Twice in his young life, he and his parents lived with Angelo and me, so that meant, at the very least, one of at least four adults was always aware of his whereabouts. And at the most...all four of us had eyes on his every move. Hostages don’t get that kind of attention.

But, he does need attention, so last night, when Daddy was at work and Mommy needed to get some grocery shopping done, Papa and I got to “watch” Luca. We had plans--there was a magic show at the church right down the street. After a quick dinner of apple slices and chicken nuggets (for him...our more adult dinner would be later. Think wine and cheese) we got our coats and walked to the show. It was as one might expect:  Hordes of kids hopped up on Keebler cookies and lemonade cheered and jumped at the magician’s tricks. Luca sat with us, also slightly hopped up on a couple of fudge-striped cookies and the one brownie I let him have. When the show was over, he was ready to roll...and we nearly ran back home.  About five feet from the edge of his yard, he looked at me and said, “Gramma. You go this way and I’ll go that way.” The door we use is at the back of the house, so he was suggesting that I head around this side of the house and he would go around that side. Meaning he would continue on down the sidewalk, walk up the driveway and go to the back door. By himself.

His little face exuded so much confidence that I said, “Okay. See you in a few!” And off he went, strutting self-assuredly in the direction of the driveway.
“Where is he going?” asked Angelo.
“Around back,” I told him and I turned and raced towards the back of the house. In the 5 seconds it took me to get there, I imagined 14 horrific scenarios where this hadn’t been a good idea. I reached the stones of the back patio and I continued check on Luca’s progress. But, before I could get a foot further,  there he came...same confident stride, hands in his pockets, looking as if walking up the driveway alone was something he did every day. I backed up a little so he couldn’t tell I was about to come looking for him. I walked toward the door to unlock it as if I had just gotten there myself.

“Good job, Lu,” I said, opening the door and letting him in. Right behind us came an anxious Papa. He had followed a distance...up the driveway. “Is he here?” he asked and looked quite relieved when he saw him already in the kitchen, taking off his coat and shoes and putting them in the closet. When relating the story later, to Mommy and Daddy, he added each time, “and it was dark!” He was so proud of himself.

It made me think of a time when I was about six years old. It’s a fuzzy memory, but it goes something like this: Some terrible transgression had been committed against me, probably involving my siblings.  I was either sent to my room or I stormed off there. At some point I decided I should run away from the unfairness of it all and I packed up my little red suitcase and snuck out the front door of my house. I made it outside without discovery, which was too bad, because my plan probably didn’t include “after I get outside...”  I ended up sitting on my suitcase in the small space between the garage and the house. I don’t know how long I sat there--it seemed like hours. All I remember is that no one came looking for me. The memory dims at that point; I don’t remember going back inside, whether or not anyone noticed or if I simply snuck back upstairs and unpacked.

How different that is from our vigilance with Luca. And not only him, but with most kids today. Yes, there are greater concerns about leaving our kids to their own “devices” but how do they discover their independence? Luca was confident and so proud at his success, I wonder how often we deny our kids that important, self-esteem-building feeling. I used to walk the half a mile to my elementary school. My own kids used to walk to the library from our Main Street apartment, also about a half a mile. Now, I felt like letting Luca walk up the driveway alone was bordering on negligent. Of course, he’s four. But I think I’m going to let him do it again.

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