WHY DON'T YOU GO OUT TO PLAY?

A great deal of my childhood was spent up a tree in the back garden, just pilfering bits of fruit. I felt like the king of the castle up that tree, surveying the neighbour's cat and my mum hard at work digging her vegetable patch and tending the garden.

I didn't tend to go to the park but had the run of the streets around my home and would zoom up and down on my bike when I felt like it. From the age of 12 I was allowed "down the town" - a short stroll down our street, usually with my best friend from next door, to mooch about the shopping centre on a Saturday morning, with the other kids.

My eldest is now 12 and it would be unthinkable for me to tell him to just go off on his own in a shopping centre or "go out to play" in the street.

He grew up in London, where the neighbours were lovely, but we kept the front door locked and his trips to the park always included me or my other half. My kids never played out in the street because of traffic and also concern about "stranger danger"  - real or imaginary, but I wouldn't have felt happy with them out there alone.

Now we live in the countryside, my son could have more freedom to roam but is reluctant to do so without parental supervision. Instead, he bounces himself silly on the trampoline in the back garden or shoots nerf guns at his brother all over the house. We organise play dates with other kids but there is always a parent present. I don't think I'm unusual as a parent to keep my children close to me, safe at home, or within my earshot, even though one is just secondary school age and the other is ten.

My other son goes out around the village on his bike but I always keep a watchful eye and he rarely strays for long. They are both more comfortable with one or other of us parents around, because that is how they have been raised.

When we go to the park, I still go with them because they like it that way.

So, I couldn't help wondering, at what point will my kids have a childhood like mine?

When will they be old enough in my eyes and confident enough in themselves to want to go off into town for a while and wander around the shops? When will they want to go off exploring on their own? I don't know the answer. I think I may have raised them never want to strike out on their own.

On the one hand, I'm afraid of letting go in case something bad happens, some accident or some stranger danger which I could never forgive myself for but on the other, I worry they are not getting enough independence.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that I get to hang out with my boys.  I love going to the park with them and mucking about. We like going swimming together and they have learned to ride horses so that we can all go out on hacks around the fields and woods near our home together or practise jumps in the school.

But are they missing out on being independent and at what point should I step back and allow them to have greater freedom?

Perhaps the world has changed so much that they will stay by my side until they are strapping big lads of 15 or 16 and then just go off with their mates, overnight; just disappear and leave me to pick up the laundry in their bedrooms.

Will they look back and complain that I didn't cut the apron strings sooner?

At which point I will once again find a nice tree, climb it and watch the world go by...
 

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