Sunday, 19 April 2009

A Rite Of Passage

Thank you to everyone who commented via the blog, email, IM, phone or, indeed, in person on the post about my dad. He would have appreciated knowing he would be remembered so fondly by so many.

Obviously the best thing to do with children is keep them locked up safe, wrapped in bubble-wrap and away from sharp pointy objects and strangers wanting to show them puppies or offering them sweeties. Even when they are at their most obstreperously demanding or cantankerously unreasonable you want your children to be safe. You keep them away from fast flowing rivers and you hold their hand when crossing busy roads, however much they protest and try to wriggle free, you refuse to listen to their demands for independence, explaining that you have a responsibility to them that you take seriously even if they are 23 and getting married next month.

Today Matty (now aged 9) took a big step on the long road to independence. He went to the local shop all on his own. Polly and I have been having an ongoing 'discussion' about how much freedom the boys should have. The back of our garden opens via an electrically operated gate on to a paved area in a cul-de-sac where a number of local children play, particularly a semi-feral young girl who regularly calls to ask if Matty will play with her. Despite the area being in a cul-de-sac a number of cars do use the road and we have been reluctant to let our boys play out there unsupervised. However, as the summer draws on, and the little neighbour persists, I have significantly weakened in my resolve to deny Matty the opportunity to play and have recently started allowing him to go out, much to Polly's tight-lipped concern. My reasoning is that he has to have a certain degree of street-smarts to survive in life and, frankly, if he can't survive in our quiet neighbourhood, with us in shouting distance, he won't be able to survive anywhere without an adult standing over him at all times ready to swoop in and sweep him away to a place of safety. Polly has visions of cars hurtling around the corner, driven by drunken car thieves, intent on ploughing down local children to score points in some video inspired game of Deathwish. Matty has been out, played and returned safely, even on occasion accompanied by little brother Sam. I felt it was time to move on to the next step.

We have talked about it on and off for a while. We have a newsagents and little general store just around the corner. The only problem is that you have to cross a narrow but very busy road that acts as a rat run for drivers who want to avoid the village. Fortunately they have recently sited a new zebra crossing a little way up this road. I felt this made it an ideal first trip to the shop alone type store. Eventually, and with many reservations, Polly finally agreed.

Matty was commissioned to go and buy a packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate. Clutching a £5 note he set off. Unbeknownst to him he was trailed by Polly, in her best SAS urban soldier mode, hiding behind lampposts and parked vehicles, all the way there. She hovered anxiously when he entered the shop and ducked behind a wheelie-bin when he came out grinning and carrying a plastic bag. A passing dog walker gave her a strange look but she mouthed an explanation to him and when he was satisfied she posed no threat to the little boy she was watching he went on his way. Polly dashed home and Matty found her casually leaning on a rail in the garden when he returned waving his spoils.

He was so thrilled and pleased with himself. Polly, on the other hand needed a strong cup of tea. The last time I looked she was on the computer Googling tracking devices she can sew into his clothes.

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