I haven’t been the most relaxed of parents when it comes to the outside world.
The kids don’t wander up to the park to play on their own.
The eldest has NO idea how to get home from school, despite living only 10 minutes walk away.
They’ve caught the occasional school bus with a friend, but would be petrified to catch a public one on their own.
I see other kids who have much better life skills. But it can be hard to let go of the apron strings, especially when you’re a news writer for a parenting site, reporting on terrible things happening to kids every day.
The eldest starts high school in a few weeks. It seems appropriate, necessary even – while it secretly terrifies me – to let her spread her wings.
Unfortunately, after 12 years of coddling, she’s a little institutionalised.
The whole not-knowing-the-way-home-from-school thing, for instance.
Or maybe that’s just her. Away with the pixies and all that.
So I’ve been trying to give them some moments of independence. For example, I took the eldest and her friend to the local shopping centre before Christmas, handed them $20 and directed them to a cafe to buy themselves some afternoon tea. They were to meet me at the pet shop afterwards.
The eldest would have been totally lost without her friend, but they made it through the adventure together, feasting on churros with chocolate dip and giggling over puppies.
I thought it was a good start.
Yesterday, at Woolies, I handed the youngest – aged 9 – a shopping basket and her back-to-school stationery list and told her to go for it.
She’s a little more self-sufficient than the eldest and strode off determinedly, spending the next 30 minutes studiously going up and down the aisles searching for her essentials and putting them in her basket.
Meanwhile I went off and did the grocery shopping.
I had to give her the occasional pointer when she couldn’t find certain items, but she basically did it on her own. At one point she greeted a schoolmate who was in the section with her mum and I briefly wondered if the mum cursed me for putting ideas into her child’s head.
I’m thinking not every parent appreciates the idea of their child making those choices themselves. Budget considerations and all that.
But I was proud of her, and myself, for doing it.
Do you ever fret about how much/little freedom you give your child?
Song of the day: George Michael “Freedom”