The eldest boy is now 6 and it’s the school summer holidays looming, in recent months he has become increasingly grown up. Cycling back from the park with him yesterday I realised just how capable he has become. He can ride a two wheeler bike, make good decisions, he is responsible and looks after his siblings. Quite frankly he is a really good example of what he should be and I feel proud of him. He is alert, he knows where he is geographically and so forth. But should I let him cycle or scoot over to his friends house (there are no roads to cross)? I think he is too little, but when will he be old enough?
One of the things we have tried to do up to this point is to make sure that he has as many life experiences as he can get. This means everything from going to music festivals at a young age, to discussing death and skeletons in museums and from about the age of four watching (after we have checked to see its not too scary) Doctor Who. We haven’t held back when he has asked a question, but tried to answer with honestly and humour. We have let him watch the news. This means he knows what might happen and what has happened to small children who have gone missing, he knows that things happen which might not be ideal.
Recently I’ve had a number of discussions with parents who are, lets say, less than impressed that we let him (and his younger sister) watch Doctor Who. They are the sort of parents who don’t think children should watch the news and generally the more healthy eating ones who would never be seen dead feeding their child a packet of crisps in the buggy. I am not in anyway criticising their choices, because that’s what parenting is all about, choices. It just got me thinking, just how much should we shelter our children?
One of the on-going sources of heartbreak for me is when my children are left out of their friends parties. Usually it seems, quite deliberately, by parents who seem to enjoy making a spectacle of handing out invitations right under their (my) noses. It’s been hard trying to explain this one to them without deliberately saying its because ‘that mummy is horrible and has invited the rest of the class (& often their siblings) because shes a cow’. I must admit that once this year I did say that, but softened the blow with saying it didn’t matter because we were doing something far better instead such as Legoland or a film screening or even a trip to the local farm. However, on the other occasions I have effectively ‘socially sheltered’ the children.
Reading the paper today with all this talk of regulating the Internet (for which I think its a very good idea) brings another topic to mind. Once your child can read and surf the Internet, which my eldest has the potential to do, what does one do about your personal blog? Its a record of the highlights and low lights of parenting and in the case of my blog some of it could be quite upsetting for the child without the benefit of age and experience to put into context some of the content. Should one shelter your children from your blog? A very modern, very first world problem.
There are so many issues here, my natural inclination is to wrap my children up in cotton wool. However I try to fight this and try my hardest to give them experiences and knowledge of the world which will give them a good foundation for life. My children have definitely benefited from this and I can see that in the context of their peer group. But just how sheltered should they be?