Mama, please let me go out alone

The chatter dies off as I turn into the parking lot under our block. His right hand darts to the seat belt fastener, his left hand rests on the door lever and his face is taut with concentration.

The minute I turn off the ignition, pop goes his belt buckle. In a flash, my son is out of the door, swinging his school bag over one shoulder.

"See you upstairs," he tosses over the other and races off.

For the past two weeks, this daily dash home has been an after-school game. At least, I thought it was a game initially. The first time he took off before I'd even got out of the car, I gave chase, caught up with him at the elevator and laughed. He, however, didn't find it funny at all.

"I want to go up by myself," he protested, annoyed, then insisted that I wait for the next available elevator.

So I did, and added this to the fast growing list of things that my seven-year-old now does on his own: showering, ordering food when we dine out and visiting a men's loo without Crazy Mum planting herself outside and shouting every five seconds, "Are you done? Wash your hands with soap!"

To him, the mad sprint is not a game but yet another thrilling exercise in independence. For those precious seconds while he is in the lift, unencumbered by adult chaperones, he can pretend he's all grown up.

The toddler who had just been clamouring to feed and dress himself is now yearning, more than anything else, for physical freedom.

He longs to go places on his own: his best friend's home, buy bread from the vending machine downstairs or collect his younger sister when the school bus drops her off at the foot of our block. Somewhere, anywhere.

Sadly, the solo elevator ride is probably as close as it gets for now as we deem him still too young to venture out on his own.

In particular, he has been begging me to let him loose at the playground downstairs alone and trust him to make his own way home at the agreed time.

I am ready to give it a shot but his father thinks otherwise. "Maybe next year," he says.

Most of the time, I veto my son's bids for independence because I'm paranoid that he may be abducted, bullied or violated in some way away from my watchful eye.

My husband's reasons are different though. While I don't trust the big, bad world, it is my son he has doubts about.

Mainly, he is worried that our boy may get so caught up with something - a cat, an insect or a ball gone astray, for instance - that he will pay no heed to safety.

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