Freedom is a tricky issue. Once upon a time, with a toddler attached to each leg, the question was, ‘how do I get five minutes to myself?’ Nowadays, it’s the girls running away from me, as fast as their sickeningly long and gorgeous teenage legs can carry them.
I completely understand that teenagers need freedom. But how much do they need? I confess I am feeling my way here. The variables seem enormous, between girls of my daughter’s age who are smoothly negotiating their way around London in seemingly effortless fashion, and others who are still dropped off and picked up everywhere by their parents. The boys, meanwhile, are apparently up at all hours hanging out in the dark at the only park which doesn’t close its gates, drinking, smoking and goodness knows what else. Sorry, mothers of boys, but I’m thanking my lucky stars yet again for my lovely girls.
I’ve encouraged my girls for some years to do trips to the village (all of a ten minute walk at dawdling teenage pace), and to go shopping with friends, and to walk instead of being picked up wherever feasible, but I am, admittedly, anxious about a plan Child One has to do a long solo train journey outside London to meet up with a friend. I know she can do it with no problems at all. She’s very mature and sensible. But it’s not her I’m worried about. It’s all the madmen, paedophiles, axe murders and incompetent train drivers she may encounter along the way. Plus it’s outside London which I find intrinsically worrying, as the countryside is full of cows and gets very dark.
I’m sure you never lose the urge to protect your children, no matter how old they are. But there is a point at which protection becomes suffocation. I am constantly struggling not to fall on the wrong side of this line.
Mind you, I was saying to Child Two, if she saw a lady in a burqa tailing her on the station forecourt, not to be at all surprised. She laughed merrily. She thought I was joking.