Friday, 2 July 2010

The pain of motherhood

Being a mother is a learning curve - always. You start off in marriage with so many ideas, then you have a baby and throw all the ideas out of the window. Then you have a toddler and all the ideas you formed about toddlerhood you throw out of the window...and so on.

My two girls are 8 (nearly 9) and 6. Compared to many children today my two are were allowed to play out. They have boundaries, but they were allowed to walk to their friends' houses on the street as long as they told me where they were, etc. They know the rules about not going into even their friends' houses without permission and to never get into anyone's car, or talk to strangers. They are allowed to climb on play equipment, to run and bounce and jump and explore.

I want them to have the freedom that I had as a child. Life now, despite the news, isn't any-more dangerous for children than it was in our day - except for on the roads there are more cars; roads are more dangerous. The media reports more on it, but according to research I read there is no more 'stranger danger' than there was in my day (1970s-80s). But I think that life has changed in different ways. The children who are allowed to play out freely round us tend to come from 'difficult' backgrounds, and then children who come from secure homes generally aren't allowed to play out freely. I realise that this isn't always the case, I'm just speaking from personal experience. Let me explain...

I wanted my children to not be snobs and to play with other children from different backgrounds.

But our ideals don't always work out do they?

We live on a street of both privately owned and social housing. We've had trouble with kids on the street drinking. So if the teenagers were about my girls had to come in- and they were very good about it, if the teenagers appeared they came in. One of the lads is from a family who have 5 children, his parents did absolutely nothing but watched from the garden as the police cautioned him. My two used to play with these children.

Then my eldest comes to me and asks me about a little girl called Samara who is evil and comes out of the television and lives down a well. She's scared about it. Then I find out that one of their friends is allowed by his parents to watch horror films (he is 8) - Samara is a character from The Ring a horror film.

Then I find out that one of the kids that they play with has been teaching them 'rude' things that little ones ought not really know.

Now my eldest has been bullied. Two of the children on the street locked her in their house, threatened to throw her out of a window. The one of them kicked her in the stomach so hard it winded her and made a red mark. The girl that did this then appeared at the bottom of our path taunting my eldest. I have spoken to her mother. But to no apparent avail, this girl has no fear or shame, but in front of me was calling my daughter names.

You see. My ideals have been shot to nothing. I feel I have failed to protect my children, not from 'stranger danger' but from other children!

I know that I can't wrap my children up in cotton wool and protect them from real life. But honestly. I feel like the only parent on this street who knows what their children are doing and cares what they get up to.

And now, I am so sad to say that the freedom I so want for my children - like those long summers I remember as a child playing with my friends on the street - are unlikely to happen for my two. Ideals are there to be shattered eh?

But I don't want to be like other parents when every second of their lives is scheduled and controlled - yes I believe in supervising and taking responsibility - but I think children's lives these days are too scheduled and 'busy busy'.

So there's the background to my question, how much freedom do your children have to play out, do you schedule lots of 'play-dates', do you go out often, do you keep them in your own garden, do you let them play only with Christian friends? Just wondered.

Thanks in advance.


  1. What a shame things have worked out that way :(. I agree that the risks are overstated and that it is good for children to have as much freedom as possible. We are very lucky in that we live in a pretty safe, family friendly area, and that has made it easier to allow the girls to have more freedom. We have also been exceptionally lucky in having wonderful (Christian!) neighbours with girls similar ages to our older two.

    Playing out ... yes and no. We are in a small cul-de-sac, so not much scope for playing out apart from riding bikes. From the time our neighbours moved in when Angel was 7 and Star 3, all four girls wandered freely between ours and our neighbours' houses and gardens. If we couldn't find them at home, we just assumed they were next door! From about 9 or 10 they were allowed to go to the park on their own (though not completely alone - either together or with friends). From 8 they could walk up to the local shop on their own so long as they stuck to the road (we have lots of "snail trail" paths cutting across the estate, which I don't like them to use alone). Most kids here walk to school (30 minute walk) once they start middle school at 9. As so many walk, there is safety in numbers. Also the schools are very strict on bullying, in or out of school - we have never had an issue with it.

    At 9 or 10 they have been allowed to go round the shops in town on their own (with a friend), initially with one of us staying in town at the same time, then dropping them and picking them up later. By 11 they walk into town and back (if they can't scrounge a lift!). At 11 they are allowed to go shopping or to the cinema in Milton Keynes, our nearest large town - again the first time or two we stay nearby, then drop and collect them. At 12 they can take the train to MK with friends. At 15 Angel has more or less complete freedom to come and go as she chooses, so long as she is not out walking too late. Mobile phones are a godsend!

    I imagine we will follow roughly the same routine with Cherub as she gets older. At the moment I am consciously trying to organise a fair number of playdates for her so she can get to know some of the other little girls she will be at school with better before she starts (at playgroup she tends to like to play alone, but she comes out of her shell playing one on one).

    I'm afraid we hopelessly overschedule, because the girls all do dance and gym - that is a big time commitment for the older two (their choice), and Cherub also does classes in both because she wants to be like the big girls. In principle I'm against overscheduling, but in practice it has just happened that way. Angel is planning to stop dance and gym next year after GCSEs so that she will have more spare time and be able to get a part time job.

    Hmmm ... that wasn't a comment, it was an essay!

  2. I think your post brings up some big social issues and some big questions for Christians.

    Your kids have been upset by the victims of a massive crisis in parenting and family life. It's happened to my own quite a middle class area. I could get political about this, but I don't think now is the time. I gently guide my kids towards "nice" friends now. And, no, they don't have the freedom I had, which is a real shame.

  3. I'm *so sorry* that happened to your girls......

  4. Thanks ladies. I feel terrible you know. I kind of scorned mums that only let their children have supervised play-dates and to play in their own back gardens or at the park when mum was there. *Sigh* I know we live and learn, but I don't want to learn at the expense of my children.

    I'd be grateful for your prayers. I don't want to get too uptight - but neither do I want them to be bullied, frightened and be told awful things.

  5. You know I grew up in the middle of no where. Literally. We were 2.5 miles from a town of four-hundred on our little farm.

    We ran wild.

    My husband grew up in San Diego the child of over=protective parents.

    Because Tim is over-protective and because I never went on play dates or played with other kids much, I've been content to let the girls do most of their playing in the backyard together.

    We go on play dates once in a blue moon because we are asked and I like the Moms.

    C has a best friend and they get together once a week. We live about a fifteen minute drive apart so there is no question - we drive the girls to their play dates.

    I don't hardly schedule the girls in anything. We've taken dance with a woman from our church who taught it but she got married and I think she will be moving. Otherwise, the only thing that we've done is dance class.

    I can say that kids in Christian schools aren't necessarily better. Your chances that your child will make friends with a sweet Christian child whose family shares your values are much higher but, unfortunately, there are many, many parents and children whose behavior is similar to that which you've described.

  6. I will pray that everything gets resolved. Also, you probably did your little ones a whole lot of good before the bullying started. Also, and I talk from a similar experience, if things are nipped in the bud and they're given clear reasons why some of the ways they play have been changed then they bounce back from their experiences remarkably well.

    God bless.

  7. My children now have grandchildren. At least 2 of them do. I raised them for the most part in a rural setting. I had them in public school then church run school. I can honestly say the children were about the same in both types of school. I stuck up for my boys and had only one bully episode. I called public school about it and when they told me they couldn't do anything about it I said I would. I was going to tell my son to "put your knee where it will do the most good when the bullies come near you in the hall" Then I hung up. The school got envolved then and matter solved. I guess I bullied the school. They knew they had a parent that cared. Stay close to your girls, support them and pray.

  8. Thanks for your comments and prayers. I know that we live in an imperfect world and it is so good that we can turn to God in prayer.

    Your comments have helped and I can put things into perspective.

  9. We live in a city, on a road that goes nowhere but is used by idiotic motorists, my children are home educated, and we barely know the people we live near even after being here for 12 years. So they don't play out. When we had "nice" neighbours (gentle parents but involved and ensuring co-operative play) our children did play together. Now there is nobody who has children of the right age who I would trust. We meet other children at home ed events, but within that I don't police interactions and sometimes the 6yo is off on his own with a group anyway, and we just deal with the fall-out later on that if it does go a bit awry. Mine mainly play with fellow catholic/Christian friends, but not because I think that is a safety measure, just because that is who we know, and they also have friends who are not Christian. Thankfully my two love to play together, at 3 and 6, but the 6yo is just starting to want more interaction socially, so we will see what happens with that. It stinks that your daughter was hurt and scared so much. I just won't let my children play with children from families I don't know, where I am not also friends with the mum, so I can get a feel for how things go in their family and can feel safe - in more assorted settings, when for example our son at 5 got into a heated debate with a 7yo pagan boy about the reality of the devil's evil nature, serial killers and vampires I was glad to see that even at 5 our boy held his own and wasn't bothered, so I don;t feel they are too sheltered.

  10. Lucy, thanks for your comment, it's lovely to come across fellow Mummy Brit bloggers.

    I love that your son was able to hold his own in an argument about his beliefs, that's cool.