It’s 7pm on Sunday evening. The weekend is almost over. I’m just trying to take stock – trying to fit together where the day went. One of our friend’s children stayed over last night, so the morning was spent trying to keep on top of where the kids were – what they were doing – who’s house they were visiting, and so on. With my own children I’m a bit more relaxed, but when somebody else’s child is involved I start to worry. I can pretty much predict where my kids will go, and what they might do in a given situation – I can’t really say that for anybody else’s children.
I had a bit of a falling down moment at lunchtime. My other half was over an hour away, standing on the touchline of a rugby match that didn’t happen (another story for another day), leaving me to try to keep tabs on Miss 13, the younger house guest, and to spend time with Miss 18 too. I had agreed to walk into town with our eldest – to get some nice food for dinner. Going grocery shopping might not sound very exciting, but it means we spend some time together – besides, it was a sunny day, so the mile-or-so walk to the grocery store became a good excuse to go get some fresh air.
Just as we were preparing to leave, our youngest showed up and asked if she could go to somebody elses house. Kids do this, don’t they – where you need some kind of block-chain level audit trail to find out where they are, and what they are doing. I had a lightbulb moment.
“Take your phone with you.”
“Well in that case you’re not going anywhere until it’s charged up.”
“But that’s not fair!”
“Life’s not fair.”
In the end I agreed they could go play at a neighbour’s house while I went grocery shopping. You’re probably wondering why I stress so much about our youngest – she’s 13 after all. She finds all sorts of things that many other children take for granted quite a bit more difficult. Don’t get me wrong – she’s as crafty as a box of frogs, but in lots of ways she’s more vulnerable than most. So we worry.
While turning the corner towards town I looked back at the playpark across the green from our house, and saw Miss 13 – minus the bag she had left the house with holding her mobile phone and house keys. Thirty seconds later I quietly summoned her to the railings of the playpark.
“Where is your bag?”
“Oh!” (she runs across the park to a climbing frame, and retrieves the bag)
I try not to have a fit, and start talking quietly, and seriously.
“Your phone cost several hundred pounds. There is a three year contract attached to the phone that will keep taking money out of our bank account every month. The house keys will let anybody into our house at any time of the day or night.”
She looked at the floor, and I felt a bit guilty.
“Keep the bag with you – sling it over your shoulder – as long as you don’t let it out of your site, you’ll be fine.”
None of this is in the non-existant “how to be a parent” instruction book, is it – or perhaps it’s our own fault for presuming that because the kids make more and more sensible decisions, that they will continue to make sensible decisions. Maybe half the problem is that we have brought our children up to be honest, and to always presume the best from others.
It’s the quote from “The OA”, isn’t it – “The biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net, I would catch only beautiful things.”
I wonder why we don’t all become disillusioned with the world as we grow up and learn so many unexpected and unwanted truths?