In the summer of 1978 I was seven and as both my parents worked full time my fourteen year old sister was charged with my care. It was never going to work and for a number of reasons;
1. She was a teenager.
2. She had a new boyfriend.
3. She resented been lumped with me.
4. Her friends thought I was funny and cute.
5. I'd recently blabbed to our parents that I'd seen her smoking.
6. She has always hated me.
It took about a week for her to work out how to get rid of me and by the end of week two of the six week break she was paying me 10p to entertain myself each day and all I had to do was be home by 4pm.
I was more than happy with this arrangement as even at my tender age I knew she resented my very existence and I didn't really want to hang around with her and her boyfriend anyway.
I wanted to be out exploring, running, building mud pies, making dams and dens and so I did. I walked miles that summer, well I think I did. A mile is an awfully long way when you're seven.
When I was nine we moved a hundred miles to a big busy city. By is time my sister was at college and with both of my parents working I became a 'latch key kid'. I made my way home from school, switched on the TV and entertained myself.
When I was ten we moved house again and I refused to go to yet another new school. Here began my first commute. A long walk, a bus ride and another long walk to and from school became my daily routine. Until I discovered the joys of the sweet shop where I'd just blow my weekly bus fare in one greedy swoop and then regret my actions deeply as yet another extra long walk stood before me twice each day. I don't think ten year olds are great at budgeting.
I look at my own children who at seven, nine and ten have never been left alone to fend for themselves, who have never had to make the painful choice between sweets or walking to school and have never had to sit for three hours in the cold and the dark because there is no one home to top the electricity meter up.
But when is the right time to relax the rules? To let children be children? To offer the chance to get from A to B under their own steam?
I don't think that my three are anywhere near that time but perhaps that's me being a control freak?
How old are your children? Do they get themselves to school and back? Do they spend time on their own at home?
I would love to hear how you've handled this transition.
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