Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Children as prisoners

I used to go off on enormously long bike rides as a child. The only rules were that one had to give an estimated time of return and one was not permitted to go on one stretch of very busy road with very blind corners. No bike helmets, no molbile phones (they were the size and weight of bricks in those days, anyway, if they'd even been invented)

By the age of 14, I was travelling 100 miles to London every Saturday for the professional training of my choice. Train, 2 tubes and a walk, or train and bus, or train and bus and walk - I got pretty confident at getting to my destination in different ways. Alone.

That sort of thing happens less and less in the UK. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6720661.stm

I wonder how parents can now maximise the chances of their children having such freedom? Immediately springing to mind are:

Becoming properly informed about the risks of various activities, the risks of car accidents, bicycle accidents, random abductors etc.

Buying child a mobile phone as soon as they are able to operate one. (maybe - I see problems with parent being a virtual presence there, actually)

Become accustomed to taking their children seriously, so that requests for independent adventures can be rationally approached.

It's all just an extension of parents who don't help their children learn to walk on 6" high walls when they first show an interest aged 1 or 2 because it's "dangerous"

This is somewhat half baked but I have other things I want to do now, so I'll use the old "I should edit this but the baby just jumped off the top of the kitchen cabinets" privacy-violating get-out clause...


Friendstacy said...

i think it's all about fear...

rather than endlessly expand on that idea, I'll leave you with it to think about as you will. :D

Claire said...

I too went on whole day long bike rides and spent as long as I wanted here and there and don't remeber really my parents having any fear over my being abducted - I think I even remeber my mother laughing at such a thought. Wierd but reassuring to me at the time. My parents 'let' me travel around the world on different occassions before I tunrned 16. Naviagte airports, change money, sort out other travel to get back home etc... it was good for me. They trusted i would do it and I did.

It is so much a fear factor I think. One of my children wanted to go out alone with his friend about half a mile away to sledge for the afternoon this winter. He didn't even ask if I remember rightly, just came into let me know they were off to the bottom fields, see you later type of thing. I bit my lip and about two hours later they came back pink cheeked and bright eyed and ready for hot chocolate and mittens to be changed. No idea what they did or talked about but what ever it was it was his and it made him happy. He was nearly six years old at this time. Too young? Hardly dare tell anyone else as I know, their reactions would not be favourable but it felt like the right thing for everyone at the time.

Claire said...

I think the thing is to have your fear, look at it, examine it, see if it has any grounding but keep it *yours*, don't give it to them. Fear is one thing that's not a good thing to share :)

emma said...

that's exactly it, Claire.

When someone I care for is climbing over a 2000 foot drop, I may feel anxious, but they are competent climbers and this is what they love doing. My fear is connected to my own slight vertigo rather than to any real danger. So I have no business trying to stop someone rock climbing near the edge of a drop because of some unfocused and irrational fear(particularly when I am next on the climb, ahem)

Your comment just says everything I might think of saying, only more succinctly :-)

Anonymous said...

I wasn't raised like that at all. I never went out up until I left home in my twenties.

I think it's very healthy that kids are out on their own, but I find it very hard to encourage independence in my offspring because I never learned streewise myself and I don't know how to help. I think the fear is passing. :(


Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I doubt that we as adult women would go out alone for a stroll at night, with no means to defend ourselves.

So I'm not sure about letting your 5 year old alone somewhere you don't even know where he is with no means to defend himself or ask for help and leaving the 3 year old, that also has no means to ask for help, sleeping without adult supervision in a hotel bedroom that can be easily be broken into.

Anonymous said...

Children still go in long bike rides around here. What I find disturbing is it's all they do outside. It seems all the traditional street games were forgottten.

Brenda said...

I agree that this issue is about fear. There is nothing that rocks me to the core than the thought of something happening to my son. All I can do is prepare him for whatever ugliness he may encounter out in the world.