Letting go of tweens
It seems a dangerous world to let an 11-year-old loose in, says this mom of three.
My eldest will be going on a school camp next week.

*Insert silent scream here.*

He’s 11 years old, so you’d think I’d have learned by now to let go of him a little. But you’d be wrong.

I’m the opposite of what you would call a hands-off mother, but I’m better at it than a few people I know. I (mostly) don’t mind that I get to cart my kids off to school every morning and don’t see them until late in the afternoon. I’m fine with them playing on their own, leaving me to do the washing up and other fun stuff. And recently, I haven’t been averse to a bit of me-time while they’re at their father’s house.

But there’s something about my baby climbing on a bus, travelling who knows how many kilometers away from home, and sleeping in a tent with 100 other children and inadequate (surely?) supervision that makes me a little anxious.

The last time he went away, he came back with an injury he got while doing an obstacle course. It probably required stitches, but they were so far out in the bundu that there was no hope of that. So a plaster and chocolate milk it was.

My shattered nerves.

I’m not alone in this. Tanya, of Parent24 blog Growing Pains, grappled with just this issue over the weekend when her 12-year-old asked to go to the mall with his friends. She writes: ‘Even when he's in a mall with me, I need to be able to see him at all times. I cannot imagine dropping him off and coming back in a few hours. Lots of things could happen in a few hours.’

Is it just me, or does the world seem so much more dangerous than when I was growing up? While in Primary School, I walked alone to and from school. I fetched milk and bread for my mom at the shop up the road. I played with my friends in the street until it got dark. Given the daily reports of missing or harmed children, I wouldn’t dream of letting my kids do any of those things. We have a front garden that stands abandoned most of the year, because I’m too afraid to let the kids out to play without supervision.

Paranoid, or just sensible? I have no idea.

‘It is all letting go ... from the moment of birth,’ says Shari Young Kuchenbecker, a research psychologist quoted in Learning to Let Go: Why Growing Up Is Hard on You, by Gwen Morrison. ‘As parents, we have to remember it is our intent to raise responsible individuals from the moment we teach them to walk. Unless we want them to remain in our house forever, there comes a point when we have to let them use the skills we have taught them in order to survive on their own.’

Wise words, which I’d probably hear more clearly if I could just stop breathing into this paper bag.

Are tweens given too much freedom – or too little? 
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