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A couple of days ago I was stood in a hardware store getting some keys cut. It had been pouring with rain and I was soaked through and cold. As I handed over the key to be copied, it dawned on me this was a very dull but significant moment. One of the keys, you see, will shortly make its way into the possession of Helen, my eldest daughter.

key, independence, preparing for secondary school, preparing for high school, growing up, Going Up
Giving my daughter her own house key. A further sign she’s becoming independent.

It’ll be the first time she has a key of her own to the house. It’s just one of changes that are taking place as we prepare her for secondary school. She’ll be undertaking the school run independently and from time to time she may need to let herself into the house.

The biggest change took place back in December when Helen received her first mobile phone. We held off for as long as we could but guessed 11 was about the correct age.

Mrs Adams and I thought we should give her the phone for Christmas and spend several months teaching her how to use it. When she goes to secondary school, we’ll be able to keep in touch with her as she commutes and she’ll have had several months learning about messaging groups and what is and isn’t acceptable so she can hopefully avoid the pitfalls.

On top of this, we’ve granted a few other freedoms and had various chats about how secondary school will be different. At this stage, these conversations have generally focused around homework and how that’s going to be a much bigger deal. As the months go by, we’ll talk about other issues as well.

I recently purchased a book called Going Up by Jenny Alexander which tells kids what to expect when they transition to secondary school. I gave it to Helen but she didn’t even look at it. I think in March, once her school place is confirmed, it’ll become that bit more real to her and the book will be more appealing.

Let’s face it, I think this was a bit of a daft move on my behalf. I was underestimating that to an 11-year-old, nine months is an eternity. While she knows what’s going to happen later this year, it’s months and months away so there was no way she’d be interested in reading about it at this stage. After all, she’s got to sit SATs first.

As she isn’t reading the book, I am. Sure, it’s a bit simplistic but parents have to prepare for this big moment as well. It was a big deal for the family when both Helen and Izzy started primary school so it would be daft for Mrs Adams and I not to expect major change when our eldest daughter takes the next steps in her formal education.

Getting back to that key, it may seem like a silly thing, but it was a big moment for me as a dad. Here I was, stood in a hardware store facilitating and managing Helen’s independence. It’s something that’s naturally going to happen, but I’ve spent so much time with Helen and Izzy over the years that it hurts a bit.

I once read a statistic that 90% of the time you spend with your child when they are a child happens by the time they are 11 years old. I have never been able to verify that figure, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

There can be something incredibly hypocritical about being a parent. Parents often make a song and dance about how they have no time for themselves when their kids are young. When the kids grow up, parent whinge about missing the younger days and how little they see their offspring!

Transitioning to secondary school is a major milestone in anyone’s life. It inevitably leads to greater independence and less reliance on mum and dad. Speaking for myself, getting that key cut was a bitter-sweet moment as a father.

3 thoughts on “The key to independence”

  1. It’s one of those parental dreads, the worry must be high for your daughter. New surroundings, new routine not just for her but for the family too. It’s the pathway to freedom.

    I don’t really think too much into when my Girls are at that age where they are less dependant on me and mum and to be honest I would definitely miss it, but they need to have the freedom don’t they? Plus you get to see yours and Mrs Adams hard work pay off as you see the more mature version of your little girl.

    Isn’t it wierd though how something so small as a key can lead to such thoughts and wonders.

  2. Lovely piece, John. Bittersweet it is when these huge gamechanging milestones are reached. I have noted kids often don’t like books geared at them, but written by olds. They feel patronised, maybe. Also maybe they feel they underestimate their resilience and their individuality? Generalised somewhat but just wondering

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