“Daddy, after school some days, can I walk home with Michael?” Oh my word, this was a head-spinny parenting moment. I wasn’t sure what I thought of Helen walking home from school without me being with her.
To be fair, this was a perfectly reasonable request. She wants some independence. Considering she’s teetering on the verge of being nine-years-old, I should have seen this coming.
How though, how do I react? The protective father in me says: “Traffic! I can’t have my kid walking home from school alongside all that traffic without me being within arm’s reach!”
My head instantly filled up with various “What if?” scenarios. What if Michael wasn’t at school one day? What if it was raining heavily? What if what if what if?
The realist in me fought back. Helen has to learn how to deal with traffic and crossing roads without me being there. It is, after all, an essential life skill.
She and her sister are usually out in public with me and I constantly remind them about looking left and right before stepping in to the road. Undertaking a short walk with a school friend could actually be quite an educational experience for her.
I thought back to my own childhood. At what age did I start walking home from school and to the local town on my own?
In truth, it was about the same age. The big difference was that I grew up in the Cotswolds. Helen is growing up very close to London near all manner of busy A-roads.
While the roads around Helen’s school are busy, the walk itself is a gentle stroll and there would be loads and loads of other kids and mums and dads around. While it would involve crossing a couple of roads, there is no jungle to navigate, no minefields, no enemy troops.
Helen’s not even talking about walking all the way home. She’s simply talking about walking around the corner to where I often park the car. It just so happens that Michael lives on the same street.
My other daughter, Izzy, is in reception class so finishes school a few minutes before Helen. If I agree to the request, I could collect Izzy, walk to the car and wait for Helen to turn up a few minutes later.
The other part of the equation is Michael. I’ve met him a few times. I can’t say I know him that well but he’s well behaved, polite and seems very nice. I’ve had a quick chat with his mum and she’s very happy for the two of them to walk back together.
Yes, okay, I do have a few genuine concerns about Helen walking back with a school friend. You’ve probably guessed that they generally revolve around the traffic.
The bigger issue is accepting the fact my daughter is getting older. She wants some independence and wants to spend time with her friends instead of her family. Like all these parenting milestones, I knew this time would come, it’s simply happening sooner than I expected.
I haven’t yet agreed that Helen can walk back with Michael, but I am minded to let her do it a few times and see how it works out. I know it’s the first of many similar requests and with each one she will become that bit more independent from her family. To think the quest for independence starts with a request to walk some of the way home from school with a friend!
Have you been through this already? At what age did your children start walking home from school on their own? Do you think eight is too young? Whatever your thoughts, please do leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them.