It’s Tuesday morning. I just kissed my 4-year-old good-bye. I’ll see him again Friday afternoon.
He’s off on an adventure.
First he will walk from his day care to the Zurich main train station with four carers and a dozen other children, some of whom are only 3 years old! Then they’ll board a train to Lucerne. From there they’ll catch a bus to a cable car. At the top, they will hike to their destination, a lodge in the mountains.
For fours days, three nights, the kids will hike, barbecue around the campfire, eat, play, sleep — all without their parents.
A little over two years ago, just before my older son did this same trip, I thought this was a little too adventurous, scary and intense for children so young.
I was really worried that my son was going to be homesick, or miss us, or not want to go at the last minute, or be miserable, or any number of parental worries.
I was wrong; he loved it. I was the one getting misty eyed waving him good-bye, not the other way around.
The day care — which, granted, is a fantastic one with wonderful carers that you can fully trust — do such a great job of preparing the children for the trip: They explain to the the kids how they’ll get there, practice campfire songs, get the kids excited, do a practice “sleepover,” and prepare a magical anti-homesickness lotion, just in case.
After the trip, they make each child an album so they can relive the memories from their adventure with their family members.
Since the trip with my older son went so well, I’ve been much more relaxed this time around. My younger son is very excited to go, in part, because he’s seen his older brother’s album and heard how much fun it was from his brother, who for the longest time couldn’t stop talking about it.
I don’t think something like this is too adventurous, scary or intense for small children anymore. I think it’s an amazing experience, and I think that children are capable of far more than we give them credit for.
It’s easy for us to want to coddle them, because they are our babies. It’s also normal for them to want us to do things for them, because we always have. But sometimes we need to let go and give them the chance to prove themselves.
I’ve written before about why travelling is good for children, and we certainly do a lot of travel with the kids.
But it’s also beneficial for them, even at such a young age, to have their own experiences, their own adventures. This helps them feel capable and independent; it gives them confidence.
And if there’s one job that we, as parents, should be doing, it should be helping our children feel capable, independent and confident. Wouldn’t you agree?