Tweens and independence. There’s always a stage where children need to be given more independence. But it’s hard to know when that is. Especially when there’s a disagreement between parents as to how to deal with it.
I never thought I was a risk taker. My mum brought my brother and me up, and she was probably the strictest mum of all of my friends’. In comparison I think I’m more relaxed, although I’m aware that N is quite sheltered, having lived in the middle of nowhere since birth, and not having an older sibling to lead him astray. Only 5 older boy cousins though, and I’m sure they’ll take him in hand when he’s older.
Until now N has always been driven to and from school. Before I was working from home all the time, I’d drop him at morning club at 8am. Then he’d be at after school wraparound care. But wraparound care isn’t at the school. It’s elsewhere at the local nursery. That’s fine when they’re in key stage one, but now there are smaller toddlers there longer than pre-school hours, it’s too young a place for them. Even when there’s a few of them going, they’ve grown out of it. With me working from home for so long, I’ve been able to pick him up at normal time from school and just nipping out for the 10 minutes it takes.
But come September, or when I’m back in the office, that’s not going to work anymore. School clubs finish too early for working hours, so sending him to those won’t help. The OH will do the odd pick up but he can’t guarantee where he’ll be and whether he can stop work to do a school pick up. So I’m trying to work out the options.
There is no real option other than on days I’m not working from home, N cycles to and from school. N would love to do it but the OH says no.
We live in a very rural area. There are no pavements, no cycle lanes (and a lot of potholes). The roads can be a little narrow for 2 large vehicles in places, but we’re just over a mile from school. Our road is quite straight (and cars do go fast along it). The road into the village isn’t too bad for visibility of cyclists most of the way.
The OH says it’s too dangerous. Cars are too fast and don’t take care. There’s only been one accident down our road for as long as I’ve lived here, and that was someone crashing into our hedge on Christmas day after having a bit to drink.
My theory is that the girl opposite us has been cycling the journey for the last year and hasn’t had any problems. She’s really visible with her high vis backpack cover, and she goes through the village. N’s friend in his year who lives up our road, also cycles but he goes across their fields and up the track behind the school. N could just cycle straight up the road to his house to meet him, then they cycle together off road. Reversing it, I would want N going along the road all the way though because it would avoid him crossing a T junction where lots of cars pull out without looking properly. If he came from school rather than his friend’s, it would be a nice easy left turn with minimal car issues.
What the OH forgets is that on our school run, we rarely see more than a handful of cars. We don’t even meet the school bus as that’s gone past 30 mins before. The same on the home journey. N’s also responsible and not a risk taker, so I’m confident he’ll be a safe cyclist.
N has now had a chance for a bit of responsibility cycling, with an after school playdate. His friend cycles so we got his bike into school (what a faff, when he could have just cycled!), for him to cycle back to his friend’s house. They went back across the fields, but in one place it isn’t safe, and N told me they’d had to go out onto the road for the last part. The part that if N was cycling from ours to his friends, that he’d have to go for half the journey. Unsurprisingly, they had no issues. They stopped halfway in a gateway for a drink and chat. Then cycled on with no problems, and only saw one car.
I think it’s great how they did this with no issues, and how responsible they showed themselves to be, even when with friends.
We have the rest of the term and the summer holidays to persuade the OH. Of course, apart from me reducing my hours (I can’t compress them enough for school pick ups), the alternative is that the OH does the school pick up on days I don’t work from home. I think that’s highly unlikely he’d do that, so we’ll have to see. Maybe I need to get my bike out of the shed it was dumped in, clean it up and get out on it to help N get used to cycling on the roads again, and practice the school run lots. I’m sure over the summer he’ll go out on longer rides with his uncle too.
I think Year 6 is a great opportunity to build up some independence for N. Secondary school he’ll either be on the bus or driven depending on the school he goes to. There’s no way he can realistically walk to school, so cycling is the only opportunity. It’s a shame they don’t tend to do their cycling proficiency until further into their final year at primary. But I’ll just have to teach him road safety.
Otherwise, we’re going to struggle with how to get him back from school, potentially 4 days a week next year.
Have you faced a similar issue? What age did your children start walking or cycling to school on their own, and were one of you not keen on the idea?