I had a Sunday on my own with the kids, which is nothing unusual, but it was one of those days when I wanted to be in control of the situation and go with them where I wanted with minimal tantrums or other problems.
The plan was to take them to the farmers’ market at a nearby college and then on to town to meet my wife and her friend for lunch. They were on their photography course but it had been cancelled at the last minute so they were making the most of the childcare anyway.
All was well as both my son and daughter were keen to go and meet their friends. It was also a gloriously sunny morning so while they ran in the college garden with their friends, I browsed through the market and even got
a brief chance to sit down for a cup of tea, admittedly tepid by the time I had sat my son down with his bacon roll and a precariously full flimsy plastic cup of blackcurrant juice.
In fact, my only sign of being a flustered dad was when a school mum I bumped into adjusted the hood and collar of my coat into place. I am sure she also managed a sly glance to check whether one of my mittens on string was longer than the other.
Anyway, we had a lovely morning and I was pleased to get the kids happily in the car by 12.15. Plenty of time to drive into town to meet the wife and her friend. Alas, my daughter really wanted to try out the new assault course/climbing frame in the nearby park. When I suggested we really ought to go straight off and meet mummy, she started howling the car down. The trouble was, I’d pretty much promised they could go to the park quickly as
a ruse to drag them away from the market and into the car.
‘’Five minutes,’’ I said, resignedly. It wouldn’t hurt to be a few minutes late, I figured.
And five minutes I meant. They had a quick go on the park’s new attraction and I gave them a two minute warning.
But just as I was about to lead them back to the car, along came a little girl whose mum I knew.
She’d been told by her mum to go up and play in the park while she finished helping at the farmers’ market. Then she’d come and meet her.
This girl was four years old.
Straight away I wondered whether she was telling the truth. The market and the park are separated by about a 50 yard stretch of road. Yes, it is quiet but it sometimes doesn’t stop oversized lorries tearing along at too many miles an hour.
Had a mum really said it was okay for her four-year-old to cross it and walk up to the park? Or had she run away?
I really couldn’t be sure. All I knew is that I had now been placed in a position where I couldn’t go off with my kids and leave this four-year-old on her own. I knew I had to either wait, or take her back to her mum.
Easier said than done.
It took half an hour before I coaxed them from the park and when I got her back, her mum confirmed that she’d been happy to let her play in the park on her own.
Am I missing something here?
I am all for teaching kids road sense but, for me, this is going too far. Despite the danger of traffic, up at the park the little girl could have bumped into any old weirdo with his coat collar and hood out of place,
swinging the longer of his two mittens on string around and around. Oh, you know what I mean.
I suppose what initially made me most angry is by the time I got back in the car with the kids, it was 12.50 and too late to make the 45 minute journey to meet the wife at 1.00. Back home I felt frustrated that the day had suddenly gone pearshaped and cursed myself for ever letting them go to the park. Then I calmed down and we had a nice afternoon building Megablock towers, playing dominoes and tag.
So that was fine, but the four-year-old girl wandering around on her own still bothers me. Is it me? Am I being too soft? I’m not saying we should ever stop our kids from experiencing their independence but four?
On their own? I know the day will come soon when my daughter, six, will take these little journeys by herself but I have already seen how she careful she is around busy roads. Also I’m going to try and hold off until she is at least eight. Maybe that makes me a tad overprotective but so be it.