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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Cutting the Apron Strings

The Jane Shilling memoir I read a while back and reviewed here  got me  thinking about the process of letting children grow go, and what a complicated and intricate business it is.  We might think we have, but have we, can we? 
So, I thought I'd put together some questions, to see how well I was doing at letting my fledglings fly.    

1.       You are going back to work, leaving your baby with a childminder for the first time.  Do you:

a)      Fuss over him, eventually ringing the office to say you’ll have to start the next day?

b)      Throw your arms up in triumph – at last, the first bit of freedom you’ve had in six months?

c)       Leave quickly, and fall apart in the car.  You’re a thousand times more upset than he is?

2.       Your sixteen year old starts going out with a man your own age?  Do you:

 a)      Lock her in her bedroom at night, and insist on chaperoning her to school?

b)      Move out of your own bedroom on the grounds that he’ll be wanting the ensuite?

c)       Leave magazine articles around the house featuring Ron Wood and Hugh Hefner?

3.       How do you respond when your seven year old comes home from school and says everyone’s been invited Rosa’s party, except her – do you:

a)      Ring up all the parents involved, insist on a meeting with the families, the teacher, the head teacher, social services, the police and the local press?

b)      Tell her to get a grip.  When you were a kid, no one even had parties?

c)       Ask her if there’s anything else she’d like to do that day, and keep your sleepless, weeping nights to yourself, and make a mental note not to invite that child back?

4.       Your fifteen year old son wants to go on holiday with his mates, but he’s got no money.  Do you:
a)      Say absolutely not.  Holidays are for families? 

b)      Give him a few hundred quid, and say go and enjoy yourself.  It means seven days without him – that’s too good an offer to miss?

c)       Tell him you can find him plenty of work, weeding, chopping wood, mowing grass, cleaning bathroom and will pay him £3 per hour.  When he argues minimum wage, you remind him he’s too young to qualify but you agree to the rise if he gets on with the job without moaning.  Then you round up the hours from 3 to 6, and give him a bit extra because you can't believe he’s done such a good job?

5.       Your daughter makes an appointment to see the doctor, without reference to you.  Do you:

a)      Ring the nurse, she’s the cousin of your next door neighbour’s best friend.  She’s bound to be able to find out what the problem is?

b)      Ask her outright – you’re her mother, you have a right to know?

c)       Say nothing unless invited?  Actually, you've got no choice.

6.       Your firstborn is nearly at the end of the first year of college.  Do you:

a)      Ring the tutor to check his coursework’s in on time and ask when the parents’ evening is?

b)      Sell the house, move into a one bed apartment somewhere exotic and far away?

c)       Pay their rent.  Given a choice, you’d rather they were hungry than homeless? 

7.       Your daughter will get the sack if she’s late again, and she’ll be late again if you don’t give her a lift.  Do you:

a)      Take her, even though it’ll make you late for your own job.  It’s your fault for not waking her earlier?

b)      Refuse, she had it coming?

c)      Take her, but make your irritation so clear she’ll never want to go anywhere with you and then charge her for the petrol?

8.       Your thirteen year old has been invited to a party where you know there’ll be alcohol.  Do you:

a)      On no account can she go, whatever promises she makes, whatever adults will be present, however important it is to her in terms of her friendship group.  No, that’s final.

b)      Tuck a bottle of vodka in her handbag?

c)      You don’t want to say no, because that will make her even more determined.  You don't want to sanction it by offering her a lift home, but you don't want her getting in some drunk teenage boy's car.  You don't want her staying the night, but it could be safer than coming back.  You ring another kid's mum to find out what they think.  They think the same as you.  Relax, look on the bright side.  The fact that she's told you where she's going is as much as you can expect.  And you won’t discover the half of what she’s got up to until she’s well into adulthood. 

How did you do?

Mostly a)  Your child will be tied to your apron strings till he’s 60.  Either that or you’re in for some serious fireworks.  Neither of these options is pretty.

Mostly b)  Remind me again, why did you have children in the first place?

Mostly c)   Sometimes you get it wrong, sometimes you get it right.  They'll survive, and hopefully you will too.

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