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?