I kept wondering whether I'd be brave enough to let my 10 year old ride the train home by himself (well,with a buddy). I believed this was a great thing for them: independence, responsibility, resourcefulness.... And all within a limited sphere: just catch the train home with your pal, don't get off at the wrong stop, do get off at the right stop. It was totally within their capabilities. And this limited independence is exactly what will help these boys become well-functioning adults.
But even though I recognized all of this, and even though I admired these boys and how well behaved they were (their parents should be very proud), I concluded that I probably wouldn't be brave enough.
I thought of The Boy and I was terrified at the thought of setting him out in the world on his own like that. No, I couldn't do it. A lump developed in my throat at the thought.
Indeed, I think I paid so much surreptitious attention to these boys because I was thinking of my own boy and how I would hope some adult on the train would silently and secretly watch over my son if he were out on his own. I was fully ready to step in, help them, protect them, if they needed any help.
But they didn't need any help. They were fine. They had this handled. They knew what to do.
At one point, one of their moms called to make sure they'd gotten on the train. "Yes, MOM." And she told them that she was in the car in the parking lot at their stop.
And soon, their stop came and they got off, easy as that. I watched them descend the platform steps. They were confident, unafraid. I want my kid to be like that.
I just need to be like that first, confident and unafraid to let my boy venture out.
Right now, he's only 4 and a half, and he's no more ready to be set out on an almost-grown-up adventure than I am ready to allow it.
Maybe, in five and a half years, when he is 10, he will be, and maybe -- MAYBE -- I will be too.
For now, I'll just send out my thanks to those two good boys' moms and dads for the unintentional lesson in setting your little bird free. I'll remember it. It may not be the train, but I'll remember that he needs independence to become a good adult. And I'll treasure the time right now, when I can keep him, mostly, safely under my wing.