We’ve been talking about the nine year old making short journeys on her own for a while. We only live five minutes walk from school, down relatively quiet residential streets and across two roads without a lollipop lady, and she’s keen to have more responsibility.
But, and it’s a very big but. I know a nine year old who was killed crossing the road. It was the street she lived on, not a busy one, the car wasn’t speeding, she just walked straight in front of it without looking. My nine year old is fairly sensible, but so was this child. Whenever the subject has come up, I’ve put it off.
On Thursday, we were all ready to leave for school, the poorly five year old in a coat over his pyjamas. Just as we are walking out of the door, he starts vomiting in the flower bed in the front garden. Mid-vomit, the seven year old says he needs the loo and will I come with him. I yell couldn’t you have done this earlier and he begs please. Turns out he has has diarrhoea. I guiltily leave him on the loo and go back downstairs to find the dog eating the five year old’s sick.
I make an executive decision. I tell her to go to school now, be really careful, and come back by herself. Leave as soon as the bell goes, don’t stay and talk to your friends, come straight home, be really careful.
I don’t have time to worry about it, I spend most of the day mopping up sick.
At 3.35 on the dot, there’s a loud knock at the door and I open it to see a beaming, proud of herself, nine year old on the doorstep. Safe and sound and home again.
I think one of the very hardest things about parenting is letting go. Sometimes it’s good when the decision is taken out of your hands.