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Independence in Another Light: Utility or Grab the Cheese Please!

I had a great remembering a few days ago.  For me, it was a breakthrough moment, for the kids, well, the kids just did what they were capable of doing long before my 'awakening'.  We've tried to set things up so that the gang, 7 year-old No. 1, five year-old No. 2, and three year-old No. 3 are always encouraged to be independent.  When we were grad students, that meant hanging out at campus quads where the kids could wander a hundred yards away or more exploring the area and interacting with people. 
As they grew, this emphasis on independence meant trusting that they could successfully and safely range further and further ahead of me.  The whole thing involved  learning to focus on each other, and mutually trust each other.  As the kids learned to listen for me to occasionally holler directions, they got to range out further and further, and explore more and more.  Ironically, (with respect to my 'awakening'), we started this in the somewhat confined spaces of chain grocery-stores where the kids could be several yards ahead, but still in eyesight, and earshot. 

When we moved to the big city, ranging out at the grocery store, became ranging out to the end of the block.  We each had to learn new kinds of focus.  The gang had to learn to focus on the people around them, not bouncing off of, running into, or getting trampled by them.  They also had to learn to focus on where they were, stopping at every corner habitually without fail, and recognizing busy downtown driveways as different sorts of corners where they had to wait for me to turn catch up before proceeding.

A new kind of independence came when we got to hangout more in 'wilderness' settings.  On hikes with winding switchbacks, the gang would cut the switchback using deer-trails while I took the longer distance switchback route.  They loved it, their route took the same amount of time, (the deer-trails tended to be more steep, arduous affairs to navigate), but they got to be out of sight, even more independent, exploring on their own.

All of which is a rather long-winded explanation of how in building independence, I'd focused on the fun, and beauty of the activity, without focusing on potential benefits to, well, me.  Which brings us to our most recent grocery shopping trip.

Every weekend, we make a dairy run.  We grab milk and butter on one side of the store crowded with weekend shoppers, and then head to the opposite side of the store for cheese before we finally work our way back to the front of the store to pay and escape.  I've been asking the gang to show me where different things are.  "Take me to the milk please."  Followed by the kids ranging out ahead, and me following along as they lead, weaving through the crowd to the back of the store. 

This weekend, though it finally occurred to me!  We could cut our shopping trip in half by splitting the work.  Since the gang knows where everything is already, do they really need me with them?  Not really.  I asked No. 3 to show me where the milk was, and then turning to 1 and 2, said, "Can you go grab two blocks of cheddar cheese, and meet us back by the milk please?"

1 and 2 headed out for points known.  3 and I trundled pleasantly through the store.  3 pointed out the display case for the milk and opened it.  We got the first gallon into our basket when No. 1 chimed, "Here you go!"  She and 2 were back from the opposite corner of the store cheddar cheese triumphantly in hand.  I always felt independence was important, but who knew it could be so handy? 

What are your favorite independence and ranging out stories?


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