Monday, March 04, 2013

If you let them walk, they'll learn to fly.

This isn't the most exciting article ever published but it is something I find myself thinking about often, especially when I compare my kids to many of their contemporaries. I meet daily examples of things that puzzle me. Sometimes I wonder if I am in a parallel universe. I'll come back to other examples I'm sure over time but for now let's just take the concept of letting your child out of your sight.

Let's take last week for starters. I drove past school to where I could park and let Léon and Anna out the car. It was about 35m from the path that leads down to the school gate. Between where I parked and the path there were no roads to cross. You need to walk past two houses following the pavement and then past two trees. Here's the google map (though of course they were on the other side of the road at A.) A is where I dropped them, B is the path into school.
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There were many children on the path. I kissed them goodbye and asked Léon to walk Anna in holding her hand and I stood and watched them till they rounded the corner. During this time not one but three of my friends asked if they wanted me to take them in if I was in that great a rush. They were appalled not only at me letting my five year old walk those thirty steps alone but even at me letting my seven year old do so. Yes, I am in a hurry in the mornings, but I also strongly believe freedom and empowerment have to start somewhere and if I can let them walk 35m this year, next year it could become 50m and by two or three years down the line they will be walking unaided to the park, to Waitrose or whatever. I remember both Marcel and Lots suddenly deciding they wanted to walk home occasionally at the age of 11 or 12 so if I don't train them now, when should I start? Home is 3.5 km - see below.

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Interestingly here is the google map of my own primary one journey from 1972-3. It was sometimes done with mum or gran, sometimes with a neighbour who was seven or eight, just like Léon, and occasionally done alone.

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All I know is one day Marcel and Charlotte started walking home, then they started taking public transport to school, then Marcel started going into Glasgow alone. I know if I asked Marcel to go to visit relatives in Copenhagen flying through Stansted alone, he could do it. He has the life skills. If we never let go, we are not preparing them for life itself and we are therefore failing in the main task of parenting. Teaching them how to live without us is a far greater lesson than anything they learn at school.

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