So, what’s wrong with cotton wool?

I had one of those moments on the weekend that challenged me as a mother. My 11 year old son was invited over to a good friend’s house for his birthday. He wasn’t having a ‘party’ as such, he just wanted to ‘hang out’ with his mates. Fair enough. We shuffled around a few things so that my boy could go along. I have met the mother several times at school and she seemed nice enough, I had no reason to think that my boy was in any danger or anything.

Due to a sleeping toddler, I asked my husband to drop Master B off to the house and when he returned he said he didn’t have a great feeling when he dropped him off.  He said neither parent came out to greet him and the boys just ran off, shutting the gate behind them, so he just left. I reassured him that they may have been busy inside and that I’m sure everything would be fine. When I went several hours later to pick him up, I opened the gate, and was greeted warmly by the mother, who told me that the boys weren’t there. They had walked down to the milk bar. I quickly drew up a mental map of the area trying to visualise where the milk bar was.

This is where I will mention that many people around me tell me that I wrap my kids in cotton wool. I don’t let them wander up to the shops or across to the park on their own.  We have tried to create a home environment where they have enough here to keep them amused, and if they want to go to the park, we will go together. I don’t really understand what is to be achieved by letting pre-teens wander around unsupervised. I know, I am probably being overprotective, but I don’t really see why that’s such a big deal. I want to keep my kids protected and safe. I don’t judge those that have different opinions, however, I am not interested in changing mine.

I tried to keep my panic under control, as I knew there was no milk bar close by, and I asked several questions, using the excuse that we were late for a function, so I would go and pick him up, so where exactly were they???! They had walked down a long secluded lane way, which ended at a large service station, which had a Hungry Jacks (for my international readers, it’s a Burger King). This servo is on a HUGE intersection, with many people driving in for various reasons. At this point, we hear them returning. My heart beat slowed down slightly.

My boy greeted me, and as we stood chatting with 2 other 11 year olds and the birthday boy’s older brother, it came out that not only had they walked to the servo, they had crossed the road (an eight lane road), and gone to a local lake and bushland area. They had walked around a bit and pulled a bin out of the lake. Dead bodies have been found in this lake and women have been attacked here. I quickly ushered my son into the car and we left. I  remained calm in the car as I assessed what had actually happened. He told me that he knew I wouldn’t want them going on their own so he asked if the older brother could go with them. The older brother is 14years old, and smaller in size than my own son, but I appreciated his effort. It also came out they had gone across to a local festival (which was 5 mins up the road) on their own also and mucked around a bit there. I thought of all the possible dangers that my son was in, and the fact that the mother had no idea where the kids were at any time. Her boys both have phones, and she didn’t even tell them to make sure they took a phone with them, or to come straight home after the servo. I was devastated that I had trusted someone with my child and they had put absolutely no thought into the safety of him or any of the others.

When I have other people’s kids, I am vigilant while keeping my distance, and giving the kids privacy and space that they want. I expect others to do the same when they have mine.

So, I ask you, what’s wrong with cotton wool?

Do you think I am overreacting? Or would you feel the same?

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16 thoughts on “So, what’s wrong with cotton wool?

  1. I would have felt exactly the same as you. Dare I scare (warn is a better word) you , this will also happen when they’re in their early teens but the walk will be to the local beach at night to a small (??) gathering of other teens, some with alcohol and cigarettes (conservative judgement of what they will have lol). Our children are our most precious things. One second of poor judgement can be a lifetime of regret. You should rest well though, that your son knew the expectations of him (in asking the older brother to come) so I’d say , like my kids, at the next level they will know how to say no without you being there. Every parent has different limits and lines for their children but I think those limits need to be cotton wool style when the child isn’t your own.

    • Yes, I totally agree with you. In fact this incident opened up a conversation about being in certain situations, and having the guts to say ‘no’. I know those days are coming, I am just trying to delay them as long as possible lol!
      And while I don’t anticipate other parents to parent exactly the same as I do, I would at least expect a phone call to ask if I minded the boys heading out on their own for a bit. I think that is just common courtesy.

      • I’m so with you, definitely a phone call asking! And,I agree. delaying as long as possible helps your child to develop that ability to say NO.You sound like you do a great job as a mum (well in my books )

  2. Ohhh man! nope sorry. Nope, if you let your children do that fine, if she had checked with you first before letting them go fine, but not on their own and not wandering the streets. I feel a bit for your son he did try and he was put in a bit of a situation that he probably didn’t get much of a say in, poor little guy BUT it was unfortunately the wrong decision made by them all. If my child goes to a friends house or out with a friend then i expect them to remain exactly where they say they will be. if plans change pick up the phone. I applaud you for remaining calm.
    Thanks for linking in Sunday Brunch. Have a good week love, hope to see you next Sunday.

  3. Oh My Goodness!! I am having heart palpitations just reading this!! This is definitely wrong in my books and No you are not overreacing by any means!! I would have been fuming!! If the parent chooses to allow her own children to walk up the street on their own without an adult that is fine – but not when you are being entrusted with someone elses children!! And to not even ask first and just assume it’s ok?? No way. Poor Mr B. He did try by asking if the older sibling could come along. On a postive note it opens up the conversation with our kids about what we do when these peer group pressure situations arise and the different boundaries and parenting styles of each family. There is nothing wrong with cotton wooling our children! If we don’t protect them then who will? They can experience independence in the right time frame when we, as parents, allow them and by the correct means and supervision. I completely understand where you are coming from!

  4. Oh gosh! You’ve got a good boy there, he did well given the circumstances somewhat out of his control. No judgement, but really, as the mother “hosting” (for lack of a better word) the party, she should have behaved more responsibly where other people’s children are concerned.

  5. Firstly, I’d never let someone else’s child out of my sight unless I’d cleared it with their parents first. Now that I’ve cleared that up – id be ok with the hungry jacks visit, but not the road crossing at that age. A car is more likely to get them than a person…. For me, 11 is a reasonable age for being a little bit independent, but not too much.. no panic from me, but I would have had a word with the party parents and certainly a word with my child about sticking within the boundaries that they know we expect! x

    • I certainly agree about the 11yo independence thing. I think the think that shocked me was firstly, it wasn’t mentioned that they would be walking around unsupervised. Secondly, the spot where they were hanging around is quite secluded and I don’t feel like it was a particularly safe area.
      Thanks for stopping by :)

  6. I would have felt the same way as you and I too tend to wrap my kids in a bit of cotton wool because hey they are my kids and I worry about them. That said I do let them go to the park across the road or ride to a friend house but they dont need to cross any roads to get there. I would never however let someone elses kids in my care go anywhere without checking with a parent first. i am even the same way with playing video games and watching movies, I always see the parents permission first. You should have been asked and given the option to say yes or no xx

  7. I am 100% with you! I would have felt and behaved exactly like you. I tend to be quite anxious and over protective with my children even more with kids that are not mine and that I am hosting . It ‘s such a huge responsibility , what if something had happened to your son!
    Feel proud of the way you think .
    Coming from an over protective Italian mom
    Ciao
    Luisa

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