I figure if I am talking about what I need to fix as a parent, I'd better balance that with things I think are going all right in parenting the kid.
Consistency. When I say, "If you do this, then that will happen" I mean it and it happens. When I say no, I mean it. If I'm not sure about saying no, then I don't, because I really want NO to mean something narrow and specific (not some jumbled up "you might convince me if you bug me enough" or "I actually mean yes but I don't want to admit that because it wouldn't make me look good"). This burning desire to really be consistent comes from growing up with rules that changed every other week (at least) and yes often secretly meant no, while no meant "convince me" or "OF COURSE I MEANT NO" or something else entirely. As near as I can make out, consistency is about the only thing you really need to perfect as a parent. Everything else you can improve on but if you start off without consistency, you have lost and may never win again.
No means no is also a big deal, because I really value genuine interaction between people. If no doesn't always mean no, it's impossible to get an overly aggressive love interest to back off. If no means something besides no, like "if you stick around and wear me down, I'll eventually say yes" then it's dangerous territory. This lovely article talks about why playing hard to get is a terrible idea. I'm very thankful that when I was pursued by a man and decided I wasn't interested (because he was married and at least 15 years older than me, probably 20), and I said no, he listened, probably because I never played hard to get. It's a dangerous game and I've known a lot of women who've played and lost because of it.
Free Range. We let the kid be a kid to the top of her abilities. We let her test her boundaries and abilities. Shortly after she could walk, she went to the playground, and she started to climb up to the top of the tower, so we let her unless there was an actually dangerous spot. As she got bigger, we changed from hanging around on or near the playground to sitting on a bench nearby, reading a book or chatting. We have always set her down at events and let her run around unless she's being actively disruptive. We encourage her to talk to nice strangers and meet new people, although we have covered what a bad stranger would act like, and that she should scream if someone grabs her and always tell us if someone asks her to keep a secret. We send her out to ride her bike on the sidewalk alone around our block. Before we moved, we sent her outside to play in the 7 acre yard alone because she knew the rules about where to go (not into "the wild" near the creek, not within 5 feet of the electric fence, not on the road or too close to it). When she starts school, I expect her to walk to her bus stop for kindergarten and then to walk to school the next year since our district pools kindergarteners and elementaries are grades 1+. It's only 4 blocks so she will walk in whatever weather, short of very and dangerously cold, when I'll consider driving her but will probably just get her another scarf.
Yep, it freaks me out not to attempt to control her every move. I worry sometimes when she falls down that she's really hurt, and I want to swoop in and scoop her up, but I don't. If she needs me, if she's hurt, she'll let me know. When we go to a museum or the zoo, I let her frolic about unless there's a reason to keep her close (like it's crazy busy and she'd get lost fast). Then she wears her backpack with leash. If she behaves herself and stays close, she gets to take the leash for herself.
I figure it's better that I'm worried than that she is. I want to be teaching the kid to be independent, successful, and confident that she can solve her own problems.
Part 2 coming sometime after finals!