Sunday, 11 May 2014

Independence Day

How much freedom should children have?

My eldest daughter is coming up to nine years old. She doesn't play out in the big wild world unsupervised (we live on a busy street traffic-wise so it's not a good place to play) and gets ferried to school and back. This could all change very shortly. In North Tyneside, we have a three tier school system. First school until 9 years old, middle school until 13 and then off to high school. This means that Jay will be off to middle school in September.

The issue is, the middle school is in the opposite direction to the first school where my youngest daughter Essie will remain and obviously I can't be in two places at once. Logistically, I could drop off Jay first and then Essie but it will be a big carry on every day.

I personally think that Jay is old enough to make the journey by herself. There is a small residential road to cross and a busier road with a lollypop lady. Other than that, it's hazard free. However, hubby disagrees. He is petrified that she is going to be vulnerable to predatory abductors. I have tried to reason with him that such cases are very rare but he is finding it difficult to come to terms with.

Back in the 70s when I was growing up, kids much younger than 9 were playing out unsupervised without any major consequence. I appreciate that times have changed but personally, I think it is just traffic levels which have changed. There have always been paedophiles but these days, the media have us believe that their numbers have increased and that they are sitting in wait to take our children. I remember back in the day being told to stay in doors as a car had been seen hanging around outside the school with a strange man in it. Whether or not this was a dangerous person was unclear but we stayed in for a bit then it was back out to play after a couple of days. I suppose that back then, there was generally more of a community with people looking out for each other which is often lacking these days. I must admit, I hardly know anyone on our street and we've lived here for 13 years!

Statistics show that children are more likely to be abducted by someone they know - an estranged parent for instance - than by a stranger. I'm a big believer that educating our children in stranger danger is the best thing that we can do for them to prepare them for the big wide world.

Jay has started to do little things by herself. Going to the post box at the top of our street, going into shops alone whilst we wait outside etc. When we go to the park next to the school, she can pop over to the school by herself to use the toilet. I think that creating a bit of trust and responsibility will help her to gain confidence and the ability to stay safe. Her road safety skills could do with some work but we have a few months to get that right.

I think that it is quite sad that this is such an issue. That we are put in a position where we worry about our children to such an extent. The best times of my childhood were having beauty pagents and talent contests with my friends, playing in the park until tea was ready and just playing great games in the street.

What are your opinions on this? Do your children play out by themselves? How did you deal with the decision of when to allow this? Do you think that kids are missing out these days on the fun that children of previous generations had?

By Bee

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