One Saturday, as we were rushing out of the house for my son's football game, I noticed Josh had left his helmet by the door.
Granted, he was pretty excited about the game. But forgetting his helmet for a football game is kind of like forgetting his head — which some days, if it weren't attached to his body, I'm sure he would.
I grabbed the helmet, of course, along with his water bottle.
"Think you might need these for the game?" I asked him as I handed him his forgotten gear in the car.
"Oh, yeah. Thanks, Mom!"
My husband just groaned. This isn't the first time Josh has relied on one of us to grab something he should have been able to remember.
"I should be happy," I told my husband. "He still needs me for something."
Because at 9, Josh doesn't need me for everything. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase, "Mom, I'm not 6 anymore," in recent weeks.
We've never been the kind of parents who hover. We've always given Josh a fair amount of freedom. But allowing Josh to have the kind of independence he wants can be scary. Though the world is full of good, kind-hearted people, it's not completely devoid of evil. Kids get hurt. They get lost. Accident happen.
So naturally, I worry.
Will Josh pay attention to traffic when he's riding his bike to school and make it there on time and in one piece? Does he know not to accept rides from strangers? To not let strange people in our house?
But I can't keep him in a bubble. I don't want to. While it would be nice to embed some sort of GPS tracking device in his body so I could know exactly where he is and what he is doing at any given moment during the day, Josh is a smart, capable kid, so I have to trust that he'll make good decisions.
For the most part, he does.
We didn't send Josh to day care last summer, instead filling most of his days with some sort of scheduled activity. Basketball camps, swimming lessons, golf and fishing classes kept him pretty busy.
Other days, he was on his own and had to find ways to entertain himself. Sometimes, that meant finding some neighborhood kids to play with. Sometimes, he went to the pool. Sometimes, he just rode his bike around.
I wasn't thrilled when he said all he did was watch cartoons and play Minecraft, but I can't dictate every minute of his life.
Having the freedom to choose what he wanted to do taught Josh a lot — especially about time management.
One day, for instance, we told Josh he could go to the pool, but he had to be home by 3 p.m. because of evening activities. He texted me to say he was going to eat lunch and then head to the pool. But around 2:30 that afternoon, my husband was driving between two of the buildings he works at and saw Josh riding his bike in the direction of the pool.
Matt flagged him down. Josh said he didn't leave for the pool earlier because he got caught up watching cartoons on TV. Since he wouldn't have time to do anything but jump into the pool and leave, Matt sent an unhappy kid back home.
But I've also been pretty pleased to realize just how responsible Josh can be. A friend invited him to hang out after school one day last week. Nobody would have noticed if he weren't home right after school, but Josh borrowed his friend's mom's phone, called and asked for permission to stay at his friend's house for a bit.
Later that night, when we were all home, I reminded Josh of how proud I was of him for making good, independent choices.
"See, I told you mom, I'm not 6 anymore."
No, Josh, you're not. You're growing up.
But since the library books that are due back at school tomorrow are still on the floor and not in your backpack, you still need me for something — for the reminder, of course, and the cash to pay the fine if you still forget.