I try and get out with a friend fairly regularly for a pint or two.
During these ‘sessions’ (max 6 pints, chip shop then bed and two day hangover – stupid middle age) our conversation usually involves some chatter about our daughters. His is 5 years older than iBear and I therefore pay a lot of attention to his various stories knowing that I will inevitably experience the things he tells me about at some point.
One such conversation came up about allowing our kids to be out of our sight and when is the right age to do this. “Never” I cry and whilst this is obviously in jest there’s a hidden truth and terror that goes with it. How can I ever bring myself to allow my daughter to experience her first slice of freedom?
iBear starts school in September this year (a whole separate topic for discussion) and this is how our conversation started. “Pretty soon she’ll be making friends and wanting to go and play with them” he comments. He thinks his daughter was around 5 or 6 when he let her play out unsupervised out the back of his house with some friends. And by unsupervised he meant rushing from window to window trying to keep an eye on what she was up to.
I just can’t imagine how and when I’m going to be able to do this. It’s just an impossible situation. Ok, I know I’ve probably got a good couple of years before decision time but it doesn’t stop me worrying about it nonetheless.
I therefore decided to put this all to the test after an opportunity presented itself during a trip to a local garden centre. We’d just finished lunch when iBear asked if she could go and have a runabout outside. After a quick inspection of our surroundings which included a large open space with cafe seating and a circular trail I let her go. Inside the cafe were floor-to-ceiling windows so I could keep a good eye on her without her necessarily knowing I was constantly watching. “Stay where I can see you” I tell her and “Make sure to keep coming back inside to check we’re still here”.
Like an excitable bouncing wallaby she sprinted outside and made a beeline for the nearest elderly couple enjoying a relaxing cuppa. Standard. After a couple of leg twitches on my part ready to come to the rescue I can see smiles and laughter. The couple don’t mind their peace being disturbed and there’s a energetic conversation ongoing….
Just as quick as she arrived, iBear leaves the couple and heads back inside to tell us all about it. Brilliant, she’s listening! Off she goes again and this time decides to explore. It takes all of 30 seconds for her to disappear behind a bush disrupting my line of sight and a further half a second of her not coming round the other side to have me sprinting outside calling after her. Of course she’s there all safe and sound without a care in the world. I on the other hand may well be about to lose my lunch.
Experiment over, shes staying with us until she’s a teenager.
Post originally written in my offline journal: 24/04/17