Friday, 31 August 2012
Through the Summer holidays I've been thinking about when I was younger and how much freedom I had. I wasn't much older than my oldest is now when I would spend the whole day out with my friends; we'd be up the mountain with a picnic (that the sheep would inevitably eat). I'd be gone first thing in the morning and would go home when it started to get dark. There were no mobile phones; no way to let my parents know that I was safe.
What has changed so much in the last 25 years to make me worry so much about my 6 year old riding his bike out in the street, or meeting a new friend and going to his house?
Hubby keeps telling me that I worry too much and that I need to give the children a bit of independence but I really struggle with it. My oldest has learnt to ride his bike and I do allow him to ride around the street on his own, but I get these feelings of rising panic when he goes any further.
He rode up to the park on our estate on his own yesterday. It's only a few minutes walk away but I felt like I stopped breathing for the whole time he was gone. I'm not used to this and I don't want to let go.
He asked if he could ride up to the park again today, but I said no as his brother was with him, and he's not even five yet. I told them that they could play outside where I could see them from the window. The next thing I new they were back and telling me that they'd made a new friend and asked if they could go to his house.
I just stood and stared at them with all sorts racing through my mind. Extreme, ridiculous stuff.
I didn't know this little boy, or his parents. Hell, I didn't even know if there was a little boy!
What if someone was just tempting them into their house?
What if they were abused?
What if I never saw them again?
I didn't know what to do. The baby was in bed so I couldn't go with them to this unknown house.
I got them to show me which house it was (I could see it from my window) and after asking a few questions about the little boy (including if he could come to our house instead) I decided to agree to them going.
And then spent the next 15 minutes in a state of panic.
I stood at the window hoping to see them running down the street, but all I could see was where they had abandoned their scooter and bike. For the first time, I wished my boys had a mobile phone so I could check they were okay.
I was really panicking.
I have never been so happy to hear my little one wake up and call for me. I picked him up and went straight up to the house that the boys had said they were going to and knocked on the door with trepidation.
The boys were inside, eating a packet of crisps and watching a DVD about dinosaurs, completely oblivious to the emotions I was feeling. They were happy that they had made a new friend, and even happier that this friend had a dog and a rabbit!
I had a chat with the mother (who thankfully, seems really nice) and then took the boys home.
It all worked out okay, but I wonder now if I did the right thing in letting them go.
So, what has changed since I was small?
Is it that there's more traffic, more reports of children being abducted, abused, murdered? Surely that risk has always existed? I used to spend hours on end in the middle of nowhere, where anything could have happened to me, but nothing ever did.
Did my parents worry just as much, but I was as oblivious as my children are now?
Every time I read or hear about something bad happening to a child, I want to hold mine a bit closer. I want to keep them next to me where they belong; where I can watch everything they do and make sure they are safe.
But I know that they are getting older and I need to give them more freedom. They need to be able to enjoy days out with their friends, just like I used to.
They'll always be my babies, but I need to let them grow up. How do I keep them safe while letting go of them a bit? Being a mother is so hard.