The news this morning reported parents “anxieties” about letting their children enjoy the freedom of outdoor play. One tabloid even reported that parents were “forcing” their children to play indoors thus creating a new generation of obese children. As a parent of two young boys I am aware of the dangers that are out there to our children. But I am also aware that inflicting our fears on them could turn our children into a generation of scaredy cats. There is a fine line.
So what are we to do? Raise scared, obese children to be scared obese adults? Or do we take the unthinkable risk and let them run wild on the assumption that the “stranger danger bogey man” is not hiding behind every bush?
My guess is that you have to trust parents to make that decision subjectively.
We are very lucky that we live in house with a nice area of green outside for our children to plat on. It is set back from the road, and big enough to kick a football on. To the delight of my children is also perfect for a communal (paddling) pool to share with their friends. We have the added bonus that our neighbours have children of similar ages so there is very much a communal feel about our area. On a warm weekend we will all have our front doors wide open, we feed each others children and have them running in and out of our houses. There is only the occasional upset when we have splinter or the children have an argument.
We have actually HAD a summer this year (and long may it continue). With the kids now on the summer holidays their outside existence is there in abundance, with the occasional blip of a rainy day or a reluctant yet dutiful Grandparent visit.
Like I say, we are lucky. Our children are able to have the freedom of the outside with the security of knowing their safe haven is a stones throw away.
As parents I am also happy they are building their little imaginations with their outdoor games. When I quietly watch them from the step I can see their natural leadership, organisation and social skills simply ooze from them.
Not to look through rose tinted glasses, but my childhood was equally idyllic. We played a little bit further away perhaps, but this was the 1980’s. And things were different then. That’s not to say things didn’t happen, but there was not much news of it. Or if there was we as children were shielded from it.
I am aware that in a year or two I shall have their questions about heading to the park with their friends. Now the park is not on our doorstep but requires them to cross a road and it is also out of our viewing range. I shall cross that bridge when I come to it…..!
So what do you do if you have children in a flat or a townhouse on the edge of a busy road? Do you feel that you have no choice but you have them play indoors unless you are there to watch their every move? What age is acceptable for them to “wander off” to explore with their friends? What boundaries do you set?
I would love to hear your opinions on this.
Hugs on the last day of school
Thats me with all the hair!
There has been a lot of talk in the news this week about the nations 16 year olds getting their all -important GCSE results.
Instantly I am propelled back to that time. Of waking up early and eager to get to the school office to get my results, anticipating that this little slip of paper could determine my future. If only I realised back then that the future would hold more worries than I would care to imagine than just this.
It also made me think. Who was I back then? Who have I become? Should I be proud? If only I could have a glimpse in the future.
So 17 years later, here is a letter from a woman, to a girl…
I write to you on the morning you are getting your GCSE results. I know you have worked hard, but I also know you could have worked harder. You know that.
The friends, who have led you astray these past few weeks I can tell you now, will not be part of your future. You have bound to be friends forever, and they will also hold a special place in your heart, and you WILL be in contact again. But for now leave them behind you. They each have different paths they wish to take. Give it a few years and you will understand this.
However you do have two friends in particular who will go on to be the best friends you could hope for in your adult life.
When you open your results this morning, please don’t be disappointed. You have done ok. Not brilliantly, but ok. And that will get you started. You will just have to work that little bit harder at college to prove to everyone that you are capable.
You are not a natural academic, you will come to realise this in time. But you do have a lot of confidence and that will count for a lot in your future. Just keep striding forwards with your head held high, and for goodness sake, wear a pair of heels. Those clumpy DM’s do not impress anyone!
I know you look in the mirror and see someone fat. You are not. The last few years you have been the slimmest you have been for a while. Just go easy on the chips and mayonnaise at college. And the beer! I know you won’t believe this now as you are not keen on exercise, but in the future you will adapt to a healthy lifestyle that makes you love exercise and the benefits it can bring.
Be kind to the boy that keeps asking to walk you home from school. I know you are seeing someone else at the moment. Someone much older. But this kind, local boy will one day make you the happiest woman alive, and will give you the greatest gift of two wonderful children. Yes! Children. I know you don’t wish to consider children in your future, but they will be there. And you will be overjoyed.
Stop smoking. Seriously. Stop. They may be cheap now, and it may be a little dark and dangerous habit to impress the peers. But when you are trying to give them up in the future when they have drained your health and your bank account you will wish you never started.
Dye your hair. Please. The bleached front and brushed out perm look really does nothing for you.
Work hard. Put in all the hours you can and save up as much money as you can. You have a wonderful life ahead of you and so many nice things to look forward to and pay for…..DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT apply for that credit card.
Be nice to Mum and Dad. You may not realise this but in the future when you have children of your own you will appreciate what they did for you and the sacrifices they made. Think twice before you slam that door.
Ring your Grandparents. You don’t have much more time left to talk to them as adults. They are good, kind, knowledgeable people. Pick up the phone, pay them a visit. They love you more than you will ever know.
Learn how to apply make up. Seriously, you still don’t have a clue in 17 years time and that “grunge” era did women our age no favours!"
So there you have it. My older “responsible” self advising the girl I used to be.
What would you say to your 16 year old self?
They live amongst us. We see them in most of the places we visit on a regular basis, and they know us as much as we know them…..but we never speak. They can appear at the local shop, the gym, work and the kids’ school.
Let me explain:
I am lucky enough to work next to a major Supermarket. Well it all depends on how you look at it. Lucky in the sense that I can pop there at any time to get my essentials, but unlucky in the sense that they do the most AMAZING salad bar that I just cannot resist the urge to tuck into for my breakfast.
So there I am, in the car park waiting for them to open. And around me are my stranger friends.
There is the man who leans on the post reading his paper. His socks are pulled to up to his knees which are neatly encased in some rather fetching sandals. He glances up every now and again to check the time on the giant clock outside the supermarket.
There are the two workmen, eager for their morning fry up. They side step around the front entrance chatting about football and what their plans are for the weekend.
Sat in the car opposite is an old man. Ready with his reusable shopping bags to grab the early morning discounted bargains. I will see him later inside.
I take comfort in my stranger friends. These are the people that I see most mornings, to whom I never speak to, but if they were not there I would be concerned.
I don’t just have them at the supermarket. They also appear at the gym, at the same time each weekend on the same machines or set of weights. We quietly work out side by side, occasionally stopping to rest, change the channels on our Ipods or take a drink. We never talk. No, we never talk.
They appear at the school gates. The parents of other children in the older classes. We smile, we nod, we pass. We never talk.
I was quite touched recently by the depth of feeling my stranger friends have for me.
I have changed my gym patterns, meaning that my gym stranger friends have not seen me for a while. I bumped into one in the changing room one weekend. We smiled and exchanged a look of recognition then went about our business. Just before she was leaving she turned and said:
“I am glad I bumped into you, we were getting worried”
Surprised, I questioned “Worried? How come?”.
She then went onto tell me that I had been the talk of the mornings gym goers. When I had not turned up for a few mornings on holiday. Then after a couple of weeks assumed that I had just decided to change gyms.
It was very sweet and I assured her that it was just because we had a shift in family life. We stood and put the worlds to rights for a bit, before I left and pondered why I had not struck up conversation before with this lovely lady.
So, next time you see your stranger friends have a chat. They could turn out to be a real friend!
I have never been particularly academic. That's not to say I wasn't smart. I firmly believe there are different levels of "smart".
I know someone for example who is an extremely bright and academic Lecturer yet it took her seven attempts to pass her driving test. Something that I proudly did first time (just..!).
I guess in life I have been lucky to have been able to climb the career ladder from a combination of drive, and people I know.
Let me take you back to my first "proper" job. This was working for 12 hours on a Saturday for a large chain of bakers. This job was offered to me by an old friend of the family who managed the shop at the time. Before long I was Head Saturday Girl (this is the drive I was talking about) but also gazing wistfully across the road at another large chain of cafes who I knew paid slightly more than the £1.45 per hour I was on. I was friends with a girl who worked there, who put a word in for me and before long I was waiting tables and sweeping carpets for 10p an hour more than I was used to.
Back to the "drive" that I have. It was becoming apparent that I had no interest in making waiting tables a long term career path for me. With my late teens became a sense of vanity and before long the smell of grease and burgers seemed to seep from every pore.
A friend of my Mum's told her at this time that as soon as I was 16, I was able to start working at a Call Centre with her. This Call Centre were crying out for flexible staff so I found myself happily hanging up my apron, and donning some rather swanky (but second hand) office wear. It was from working at this Call Centre on and off for the following 4 years, that I was able to make the contacts I did to start working for a Global Pharmacuetical Company as an Adminsitrator, which lead to working as an Account Manager and subsequent Business Development Manager (there's that drive again!) and now onto doing a job that I love as a Marketing Manager.
I could (if I'd had the brains) lead a very different career path. If I had managed to scrape higher than 3 GCSE passes I would have gone onto do A-Levels rather than a basic business course at college. If I had passed the A-Levels I would have perhaps gone onto University and got myself into masses of debt and permanent liver damage. But this would have meant I would not have had to oppurtunity to work aboard and thus broaden my horizons.
No, I am happy with the brains I was born with. And ever happier with the friends and family I have been blessed with! Its them I have to thank to be leading the life I am today. Thankfully, because its not like I could have relied on brains alone!