Today my 12-year-old son (he is youngest in his school year) got a train with his friends and their bikes to some ‘epic’ ramps. This is the first time for this monumental journey in my life as a parent. The train journey is 30 minutes, the time it takes to cycle to the station and then the journey to these ‘insane’ ramps, then all the way home. All this equals worry time for me. What made it harder to bear was that this time when Harry ditched me and Sampson, we went on our usual holiday to trip to a National Trust without him, something us three always do together. I did have a bit of a moment where I really missed Harry today.
As a parent, you have spent every second since they were born protecting your child. Keeping them safe, within eye shot at all times. A unit of security, for you and them. Away from strangers, out of harms way, close enough to cuddle. Then secondary school happens. Everything you have done for the past 11 years is thrown out of the window.
“Can I walk to school?” “Can I ride my bike to school?” “My mates are going to the park; can I go?” “I’ll be out with my mates this school holiday, you and Sampson can do stuff.” The three musketeers are now down to two, my heart is broken.
Due to my work hours and the youngest one’s school run, at the start of year 7 Harry had to walk. Some of his friends cycled, it was a sore subject. I was not ready for this. He was, but I definitely wasn’t. I can handle walking, he’s upright, stable, won’t fall in the road, but cycling is a different ball game. What if he got hit by a car, brakes fail or falls off the motorway bridge? After Harry asking almost weekly to cycle, we agreed he could from the Spring and touch wood, we have had no mishaps.
Secondary school is a cruel place and friendships are crucial. You must get the right balance of being a parent and having boundaries, but letting them venture out and stay ‘in’ with their mates. We have experienced ups and downs with his friendships and he has come out the other side stronger and wiser. Year 8 has so far been a good year. I also credit this year to his new-found love of BMX and his like-minded mates. Rather than being glued to a computer console, they are out sampling the ramps of Surrey. Fresh air and exercise perfect.
The brilliance (and their down fall) of children today are mobile phones. Social media and teenagers is a whole different blog. But for checking in, thank god for mobiles. Harry understands that as long as he keeps me updated of his location and well-being, I am relaxed about him leaving the house. Well relaxed as I can be. Due to this, the most important part of our relationship now is trust.
I am not an over protective parent and I feel we are extremely lucky with Harry. We have the usual arguments, bed time strops and ‘life isn’t fair’ moments but on the whole he is a really good boy. Hiding under the duvet at night with his phone is a classic, why do they never think we know what they are up to! We are very close and hope he would come to me with anything. I enjoy our chat time once Sampson has gone to bed; we dissect the day, he fills me in with all the gossip and just chill. It is not all plain sailing and as all mothers of teenagers know, hormones are horrendous. These annoying things dictate which Harry I’m going to get. But when it’s my Harry rather than ‘other’ one, we are good.
I can’t be there physically every step of the way to guide him through decisions or protect him from danger, but I can be safe in the knowledge that I do trust the man he is becoming and the choice he would make if something untoward arose.
So my advice about the dreaded stage of secondary school is still be a parent, but adapt. Yes, everything is thrown out of the window, but there are new rules to play by. You can be their mate, but you are a parent and they need guidance. These days’ children look far older than their years, and social media is a huge added pressure. The key is never forgetting that they are children even if their chat and views are of what a 16-year-old may be. Harry needs me a lot, if not more, especially emotionally. Give them the benefit of the doubt and have faith in your teen. They will mess up, we did, I did. It’s how you get them back and even though you can’t be there by their side all the time, you have empowered them to trust in themselves.
Harry and I survived the day. Train was a success- they used the bike carriage, he ate- the nutritious restaurant of Burger King and most importantly he had fun. On his return, I got a massive hug and a kiss so win win! He’s going to kill me…