Thursday, 6 November 2008

How Long Is Your Leash?

One of the things I am always pestering other parents about is how much they control their children, or allow them to control themselves.

Like walking to school, at what age do you let them walk without holding your hand, being right by you side, or then just stopping for you to help them across the road?

When do they have a knife and fork, rather than a bucket and spade?

I am mindful that there are probably no right and wrong answers, and that all our children will have differing time-lines, based on numerous things.

But to have an idea and some guidance is always useful.

They help you cope with situations like this.

And the not-to-dos are much more important than the too-dos.

Towards the end of our joyous half-term activities – and I type that without sarcasm – we were out with a couple of families from our village.

In total there were five children, one baby, two mothers and me.

As the weather was fair, we took off for an outdoor activity. We have some great parks around here and when children have others to play with then a location is all you really need.

The place we landed at has several playgrounds that are supposed to be age specific. But when you have kids ranging from nearly four to virtually eight they like to play on the same one.

So as the responsible ones we sheparded them round as a group to each of these different areas, so a good time could be had by all.

Generally finding somewhere to sit and watch them all from, or in the case that the equipment was too tough for the little ones, stand near to give them the hand they needed.

It was interesting for me to see that the other parents kept as much a beady eye on their older children as they did of those a similar age to mine.

We were not being neurotic, in my opinion anyway, but regularly amongst our gossip informed discussions we were doing a little head count, every few minutes or so in fact.

It was definitely a three person job, as kids love forming splinter groups don’t they?

There was unanimous opinion that it is much easy in greater number, and that counts for both children and parents.

The collective also agreed that bright coats or even luminous jackets would be appropriate for the rest of the winter and the dark nights.

Then we can exchange our leads for sunglasses.


Kori said...

I don't think that as parents we EVER stop watching our kids. I mean, when we are somewhere amongst a group of people, I always know where my teens are; they can run around and mingle and play, but I can look up and find them at a glance. That wasy they have some freedoms while also fuliffilg my need to know where they are. Of course, now they do go a lot of places without me, so it is scary....but I only think yo uare too pretective if you lock them in the hosue and don't let them spread thier wings at all.

Penelope said...

I'm with Kori on this. I never relax when the kids are around, and they are teens now. My son is 14 and just a smidge off 6 feet tall but I still instinctively reach for his hand when we cross a road! I can't help myself!
Both of mine walked to school, alone from when Master P was year 5 (9 yrs old) and Lil Miss P was Year 3 (7 yrs old). Having said that, it is just around the corner and there are a load of other kids/parents doing the same journey.
Now they walk/cycle a mile and a half to the secondary school and have since the age of 11. Yes I was terrified (still am) but it has to be done :o)

Tismee2 said...

I agree. You always watch out for them but I am less protective with Alexander in some ways than Jordan as I can now see that I was too protective. For example, I wouldn't let Jordan play out in the street with other kids incase he got run over, went missing etc etc. He became left out and then had hardly anyone to play with.

I allow Alexander to play out as long as if he goes to someone's house he comes and tells me. I can see that he is much more sensible than I thought, watches for cars and stays on the pavement etc. I still worry, but I know he's having fun with his friends.

Single Parent Dad said...

Kori - That was very similar to how we were on our day out. So I'll be keeping my eyes on him for a good while yet!

Penelope - One question. Does your 14 year old look younger or older than me?

Tismee - One cap does not fit all I see.

Penelope said...

He looks about the same age dammit!!
I'm not offering to hold your hand across the road...I'm sure you can manage just fine ;o)

Dad said...

Somewhere around age 11 the holding hands when crossing a street or busy parking lot stopped for Little Elvis and me. It was his choice, I think...but it was also a mutual trust issue.

I could sense him thinking, "It's OK dad, I can look both ways on my own."

I still felt a sense of loss, however. It's one of those moments when you realize they are growing up and away, albeit incrementally.

That said, my Dad-Radar never powers down. My own father is 77 and his is in full operational mode as well.

The Grocer said...

In my view it is impossible to generalise about these issues. My six year old Stumpy is mostly a very responsible young chap that we trust with a wide variety of things but occasionally he has a moment of madness and does something completely silly.
I have always held the view though that to learn to be safe children have to be exposed to a certain amount of risk.They cannot learn about danger from lectures and talks, they need to see it in the flesh so to speak. Sometimes I wince but I have confidence that if you give kids self confdience they will develop their own commonsense over time.

Single Parent Dad said...

Penelope - I shall keep abreast of the green cross code then.

Dad - I should look forward to it and dread it at the same time then?

The Grocer - You are right. Each child and their environment will differ.

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