They turned right and we turned left.
I didn’t look back as we hustled over the bridge and across the road towards kinder, there wasn’t time.
I installed the big boy happily at the puzzle table and headed back through the park to the supermarket. I heard the school bell ring as we crossed the road and the thought suddenly struck me…
What if something happened to them on the way to school?
I shoved the thought way way down into the pit of my stomach and tried to remember what was on the shopping list that was sitting on the kitchen bench back home.
As I pondered the gluten free status of some sausages, the thoughts crept back up again…
What if they never made it to school?
I squashed them down as we paid for our sausages and half a dozen things that weren’t on the shopping list and headed back to the car.
As I stood there, in the park where I had parted from the girls not even 30 minutes earlier, up came the thoughts again, repeating like a cheap hot dog…
I won’t have any idea if they made it ok until I go and pick them up this afternoon!
I rationalised with myself as we drove home…
They are 8 years old.
They are together.
They walked about 200 metres to school from the park.
They know the route well.
They had no roads to cross.
They only pass the police station and the fire station on the way.
There are loads of other parents and kids walking the same route to school.
Logically, the chance of anything happening to them was minimal.
The chance of anything happening AND not having anyone to help them was even more minimal.
So what on earth is with these crazy, scary, irrational thoughts that keep popping up?
I thought I was totally cool with this whole ‘free-range kid‘ thing, but obviously I am only cool when I stand and watch them walk the 200 metres to school and see them go in the gate.
So much for free-range!
What is with this insidious fear that has crept into all of our lives?
Statistics show that crime rates have dropped, that the likelihood of a child being abducted by a stranger is extremely low, and with no streets to cross I can’t even claim mad car drivers as a reason for my worries.
So where does it come from?
Perhaps it is all the crime shows on TV that beam 3 different child abduction stories into our homes every night. Or maybe it is the news media that highlights these kinds of crimes and makes us what to wrap our kids in cotton wool forever.
Now I am not saying that these things never happen, and I can only imagine how devastating it must be to have it happen to you or your child… but is the rare chance that something horrible might happen a good enough reason to never let your kids leave the house alone? Is it a reason to never give them a little responsibility? Is it a reason to never let them take a risk?
If I don’t let my very sensible 8 year old girls walk a very safe route to school, then how will they ever learn? How will they ever develop the skills and confidence to go anywhere without me?
Will I still be supervising their every step when they are 13? When they are 15? When they are 17?
And then what? Then when they turn 18 I just tuck them into their car and watch them drive off alone for the first time in their lives???
I will never stop worrying about them, not when they walk to school and certainly not when they drive off in a car! But I choose to set these worries aside. I choose to remind myself again and again of why it’s all ok, why this is the right thing to do… and I choose to hold my breath just a little until I see them rush out of their class room in an hour and 10 minutes (no, of course I am not counting the minutes…. well ok, just a little!)
Are you a ‘free-range’ parent?
At what age do you let your kids walk to school? Go to the shops alone? Catch a train on their own?
How do you manage the worry when you do?