I usually keep my posts fairy light and amusing (they are fairly light and amusing, right?!), but today I want to tackle a more serious issue. The issue of kids traveling around without adults.
Recently, my 10 year old son took his first bus trip without an adult. It was just a 20 minute trip, he was with a friend, and they were put on the bus at one end, and met off the bus at the other end, so it was all very controlled, but I still felt a bit anxious. What if the bus broke down on route? What if a stranger tried to lure them off at an earlier stop? Over the last few months, he has been going out and about in our village with friends and no adults, and I still feel a bit anxious about that, but I allow it because I do believe it’s necessary for kids to be allowed some freedom in order to develop independence and general survival skills. When I was his age I was already confidently zipping around London on buses and underground trains on my own. People say that it was safer back then, but I’m not sure whether it actually was, or if it’s just that we are more aware of the risks these days. One thing is for sure, kids were much more streetwise back in the 70s and 80s when I was growing up. They were out there without adults and they learned to be resourceful and figure things out if something went wrong.
When I was five, my Mum moved to France and my Dad stayed in England. From the age of five, I started regularly traveling between England and France on my own. Of course I wasn’t just left to my own devices, I was put in the care of the airline staff and handed over from parent to parent. Most of the time it went smoothly, but sometimes it didn’t. There was one occasion when I was six, I had to take two flights, changing at a Paris airport. Something went wrong at the changeover airport and I was left wandering around the airport on my own. I remember feeling quite scared and alone, trying to figure out where I should go for my connecting flight. Eventually I approached a member of staff at one of the desks and they sorted me out.
There was another occasion when I was seven. Rather than fly, I was to travel from England to France by ferry. I was put in the care of the coach driver who would look after me on and off the ferry and get me back on the coach in France, to travel across country some way. All was fine on the ferry and getting on to the coach, but then the coach broke down. We were apparently told we would have to find our own way of making the rest of the journey, as the coach driver had to stay with the coach. A couple of adults took it upon themselves to take me the rest of the way, and so they took me to a train station and we caught a train. This was mid 70s, so it was pre-mobile phones. Waiting at the coach station, my Mum was told that the coach had broken down and that passengers were having to make their own arrangements for the rest of the journey, but nobody was able to tell her anything about me. All she could do was wait at the coach station, and hope that I eventually turned up, which I did. As a parent, that just makes me feel sick imagining what she must have gone through waiting there!
I think it’s a really tricky balance for us parents, protecting our kids, but not over-protecting them so much that they never learn how to manage on their own. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to what age children should be allowed out on their own, each child is different, and parents have to make decisions based on their own children’s maturity, and other factors such the area in which they live.
I’m interested in any thoughts, from parents or non-parents? Or if you don’t like me tackling serious subjects on my blog, then lighten it up yourself and tell me a joke, and make it a good’un.