Is 8 Years Old Too Young To Let My Daughter Roam?

by Andrea Bates
Originally Published: 
An eight-year-old girl in a blue shirt blowing a dandelion with white fairy wings on her back

We live in a family-friendly neighborhood. There are loads of cul-de-sacs and kids roaming freely. Maybe way too freely, but we’ve decided that it’s time to let our daughter roam a bit. She’s 8. Her birthday was in February, so she’s not a new 8. But still … she’s 8. Is that too young?

She knows she isn’t supposed to cross the street. So she doesn’t. She knows she can’t run around the cul-de-sac like a mini-maniac. So she doesn’t do that either. She knows our rules, and she knows how to be safe, and she knows we can practically hear her playing out there with the other kids. And when her friends ring the bell—the ones who don’t wear their helmets on their bikes and the ones who ride carelessly in the street—she knows we don’t let her do those things.

I still get nervous letting her go. I’m her mom. Of course I do. But sometimes we need to let them go. And maybe 8 years old is too soon. But maybe it’s not.

And maybe the only way I’m going to be able to know for certain and feel it for sure is to give it a try. And trust that her father and I can trust her and know she’ll behave appropriately and come home (easily, almost every time) when we come to get her.

And maybe the only way I’m going to feel okay about it is if she does it again and again—without incident. And maybe there will be a day when something happens. She falls. Cries. Needs me. And I’ll come. I will run down the street.

Kids will be kids and all that, right?

Nobody ever told me what it would be like to watch my daughter run down the block without me, and how I would feel my heart leap out of my chest. I imagine that feeling now—and then picture her going away to college, or moving 500 miles away.

It’s rough being a mom. Rougher still watching your kids grow and sort of not need you anymore. She doesn’t need me outside watching her play. But I need to be there. Sometimes. Or all the time. Or when I hear a car zoom past way too quickly. I need to see. Make sure she’s okay. Even if she’s only on the sidewalk kicking around a soccer ball just a few houses away.

And sometimes I won’t see. I’ll just have to feel it. And let her go. Motherhood, man. Parenting. This gig is not for the faint of heart.

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