This school holiday I blindfolded both the children, drove them out to a mystery location and abandoned them…!
The last act of an desperate parent driven to distraction over the Easter break?
Absolutely not. The boys were armed with a map, a pack of sandwiches and a good dose of common sense.
Because I firmly believe that allowing kids adventure and freedom in their lives is vital to bringing up resilient, independent young people ready to face the challenges that life will undoubtably throw at them.
The task ahead of them that day was to find their way home sticking to cycle tracks and minor roads. We went over the preferred route with them before they left as we were not happy with them facing traffic on busy roads.
I was confident that the two of them, now aged 12 and 13 years old were capable of reading the map to negotiate roads and tracks which for the most part they had never been on before and arrive home safely.
They had money to buy the obligatory ice cream on route and mobile phones in case of an emergency.
But there are so many what-ifs…. what if they had an accident? Punctured a tyre? Took a wrong turn and got lost? The list goes on.
Maybe I should tag along with them, just in case.
But wrapping children up in cotton wool is not the way to deal with the unpredictable nature of life. Helping them build the skills to cope and allowing them the opportunities to practise independence is what I have always aimed to do. If I went along, the sense of responsibility would be lost.
And watching them carefully check over their bikes and consult the map before they left I could see they were rising to the challenge.
Living in the woods my two boys have plenty of opportunities to practice fending for themselves. Lighting fires, wild camping and cooking outdoors are holiday favourites.
But to complete this challenge successfully they would have to deal with a few issues they found difficult.
A dreamer, living for the most part in an imaginary world where dragons lurk around every corner, I worried that my youngest would struggle to focus. His PE kit comes back with one trainer missing. He never remembers to bring his lunch box home. How would he cope when losing an item of kit, a water bottle or his phone for example, could prove disastrous? The eldest is gifted with an excellent sense of direction and insisted on blindfolds on the outward journey to make sure they had to rely on map reading to find the way home. But he has a tendency to panic when things go wrong. The two boys would have to work together and most importantly not fall out. Pushing these concerns to one side, I cheerily waved them off.
Including stops for lunch and map reading the 10 mile cycle took them about three hours and the boys were full of stories and excitement when they arrived home rosy cheeked and breathless. It was fantastic to hear how both had taken a turn at reading the map and cooperated when they found themselves a bit lost.
I think its a huge shame how risk averse our culture has become. Children have the right to adventure. It’s experiences like this that allow the next generation to get excited about the possibilities the world has to offer. It teaches independence, initiative and self-reliance – skills which will serve them well in later life.
We are already planning their next adult free adventure, a much longer ride of about 30 miles. I’ll let you know how they get on.
Are you the kind of parent who hands their kids a box of matches to play with? Would you let your children out alone on their bikes – locally or how about somewhere they had never been before? Does it make a difference where you live? What are your limits? I’d love to hear your views and experiences, good or bad, whether you agree with me or not. Please use the comment box below.
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