As I asked frantically if anyone had seen her, my fear mounted, burning in my stomach.
Time seemed to stop still.
I was physically shaking, as I tried to think at what point I call the police.
And then she reappeared.
She’d been gone 10 minutes as we were playing hide and seek.
But I’d panicked. She was out of sight. Not answering as we shouted.
(She was playing hide and seek for gawd’s sake why would she?)
After an overwhelming, wave of relief as I hugged her tight, I felt a bit of an idiot.
I mean, when I was six I played out for hours on end.
Out of sight of my mum. And all the other mums. We all did.
The mums were out back in the kitchen – it was the 70s! – and all us kids were at the front.
Out of sight.
When I was six, I was even allowed off the street and several blocks down.
And my mum didn’t worry. And you know what – she won’t mind me saying this – but she wasn’t the most chilled out mum in the world. She worried about stuff. But not about us being out of sight.
And it’s not like, the world was just a nicer place. Us kids had all heard about the Black Panther and Yorkshire Ripper serial killers! There were IRA bombs going off! Half the country was on strike!
There was lots to worry about.
But our mums trusted us kids – even when we were small – to look after ourselves and after each other. For big chunks of time. Out of sight, of any adult.
And now I have to say I just can’t do it. I can’t give my daughter that trust.
And the more I think about it, the more I think that matters.
If you talk to anyone teaching teenagers, they’ll tell you there is an epidemic of anxiety amongst kids today. The growing number of college kids on anxiety medication is truly frightening.
And their teachers’ll tell you these kids have no confidence to sort out their own problems. They assume they need someone to help them. And that’s overwhelming.
Of course, there are all sorts of complicated reasons behind kids’ anxiety.
But at a basic level, how can we expect kids to have the confidence to solve their problems, when we never trusted them to do so? When we denied them the space to learn to look after themself.
I so want to parent differently. I so want to give my daughter that space. That trust.
There’s some really great ideas in these classic books encouraging free play …
And in my own family we’ve found these 10 simple steps to build independence really helpful.
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