Children, Family

Pre-teen independence

Oh me oh my, large boy is growing up! He’s heading for 11 years old and has just started year 6, his final year at primary school. Part of me is shocked and horrified, baffled as to how we got to this point so fast. Another part of me is quite enjoying watching him grow up and explore what sort of person he is. Sure there are mistakes along the way, but how else do we learn (hey, I applaud failure!)

Back in April, we hit one of the many landmarks of growing up – staying home alone. Further back, we experienced the rite of passage when watching more grown up TV shows – he’s progressed to bake off and watch this space for a post about everything he’s learned from watching all of the Buffy Vampire Slayer episodes ever.

Now, we’re really zooming past the milestones though.

There was a really momentous day just before they went back to school.

The big events

  • Having access to a phone
  • Submitting his secondary school choice form
  • Getting left to attend rugby training without parental supervision (I’m with the U8s and himself has been playing football on a Sunday morning, this was more by accident than a conscious independence opportunity)
  • Going to buy a chippie tea by himself
  • Walking home from school on his own – this is the really big one!

What we’ve learned

I think he’s learned that trust is earned. Over our summer holiday he was allowed to cycle anywhere on the campsite on his own. The big step was when we got up one morning to find a note from him saying he’d gone off, what time he’d left and that he’d be back for breakfast. We didn’t ask him to do that, he just knew that it was the right thing. He showed respect for his parents by not waking us up, and knew that the responsible thing to prevent us from freaking out was to make sure we knew where he was. That was the moment that he earned a massive chunk of trust, even if he didn’t do it for that purpose – in fact even more so, because he wasn’t aware of the consequence of his mature choices.

He’s also learned that independence and being more grown up really isn’t that fun. Being allowed to go to rugby on his own means he ends up being early (because I take him down to the pitch at least) and so he has to help set up. Being allowed to walk home alone is actually really boring. None of his friends live near us, so he doesn’t have someone to walk with. We’ve said he can’t have headphones yet because he needs to hear the traffic when he’s crossing roads. Oh, and if it rains he can choose to stay at after school club or walk home. He picked walking and got soaked – no fun at all! But it was his choice. There’s no point being independent if you just fall back on the easy option the first time it’s a little bit unpleasant. (Does that make me a hardass meany mum?)

He’s learned that his parents respect his choices. He’s picked the secondary school he wants to go to, we’ve only put the one down on the form because its very close and he’s in a feeder school. He didn’t even want to look round the other options, even though we gave him the opportunity. We haven’t forced him to visit anywhere else or put down a back up, because he didn’t want to. He knows what he wants and it’s our job to support that.

I’ve learned that my ten year old is actually a sensible, honest, mature chap. He was later home the second time he walked back from school. But without me even asking, he told me that he’d been chatting with two friends who get picked up just outside school.

I’ve learned that large boy is really very considerate (especially when it means he gets something he wants too). Each time he’s come through the front door, he’s put his things away, then put the kettle on. He wants a hot chocolate but voluntarily makes me a tea or coffee at the same time – by which I mean he asks what I want, I don’t suggest he makes me something too. The pride I feel when I’m in a video call and my son brings me a hot drink for all to see is fabulous! Everyone else gets to witness what a lucky parent I am.

I’ve learned that large boy understands limits and knows how to stay within them. He knows that the phone he’s using on the days he walks home is not his. He doesn’t use it or ask for it in between times. He knows that he’s not getting games or lots of apps or music on it.

I’ve learned that I don’t need to be super worried and clingy about him being out in the world by himself, and that I’m not. I’m quite chill really. He’s ten, he’s walking a mile and a half home along a main road, crossing several side roads and using the pedestrian crossing for the big one. He’s by himself without the insurance of friends, coming past all the secondary school kids who might decide to stop him. He’s got the phone so that he can let me know he’s leaving and so that I can track where he is. But in the 30 minutes it takes him, I only check once or twice to make sure he’s still moving. I know that as time goes on, I won’t feel the need to check at all; unless he’s more than, I don’t know, maybe 10 minutes late.

He’s starting to learn the value of money and what sensible purchases might not me. He went to the chippie and came back with charity sweets; cola bottles that were sugar free. The donation was a pound. Generous? slightly. Feeding his sweet tooth? utter fail! They were disgusting, he had one and then they went in the bin. But we learn from mistakes, not from mum and dad telling you “that’s a bad idea”.

The road ahead

So far, so good, and so easy. I know that this won’t last. I know that there will be hurdles, some big ones I’m sure, further down the road. There might be late nights when he should have been home hours ago. There might be bullying or fights. There might be romantic problems. I’m sure there will be massive strops and door banging and swearing at his awful parents ruining his life – there are occasional strops already. But I hope, I really hope, that the foundation of respect and trust that we’re laying down together, parents and children, will help us all keep talking, hugging, and honouring each other.

How about you?

Do you have any advice about this phase of parenthood? or the next one looming on the horizon?

How have you managed your child’s desire for independence and balanced that with what feels comfortable for you while remembering that you can’t hold their hand forever?

Or maybe, how did your parents approach starting to let you go? Did they make mistakes or get things right?

Please! I need help on this one!

Love from Smell xxx

14 thoughts on “Pre-teen independence”

  1. It’s hard isn’t it, when suddenly you have this not-so-little person anymore. They grow up so fast! My daughter is in year 11, and it’s been hard to let the reins go, as she was 12 when covid started, so she missed out on a lot of independence-building for two years. This year has been a big milestone with the first boyfriend, going out with friends to town, it’s been lots at once! I haven’t got used to it yet. Wish you all the best of luck, you will both do great!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ve got a really good balance of trust and independence, and it’s good to read how responsible your oldest boy is being. Thanks for linking again

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like he’s growing up a sensible and thoughtful boy. I wish mine had more opportunities to walk or go somewhere alone. the OH won’t let him cycle up to the village on his own which is frustrating for both of us, I’m hoping that come this summer he will now he’s at high school. He has to be driven to the bus stop although obviously he gets on the bus on his own both ways etc. But we’re so far from shops etc, I can’t just send him out to get stuff. Maybe I’ll send him to pick up the takeaway next time, although it’s always really busy and the queuing system is a bit non existent, so not sure he’ll get noticed, or push himself to the front to let them know he’s there to pick up. I need to get him and a friend into town one day so they can go around on their own for 30 mins and experience that. There’s a couple of friends I’d trust to be sensible too, so hopefully their parents will allow that too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel like large boy is amongst the last of his friends getting some freedom. Lots of them have been walking home since last year. But they all have friends to walk with and live much closer to school. He wants to join orchestra in the summer, but it’s the same time as swimming. So we’d have to drop him and let him walk home through the town centre afterwards. Definitely not ready for that yet.

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  4. Amazing milestones! And he sounds like he is really making some great independent strides! I’m not a parent but I spent many years teaching Year 6 so could see the beginnings and steps being taken towards growing up. I always found that my students appreciated the ability to drive those changes and choices for themselves but they wanted those guidelines that I could provide and would set to show they could cope/be responsible, etc. Exciting times (even if it seems to be coming so fast)!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Aww. It is lovely to see them grow up but it does tug at our heartstrings. He sounds like a lovely lad and one you have the right to be proud of. I always tried to encourage independence in my girls. A proud moment was when my older daughter told me in high school she was “teaching her friends how to ride the bus so they could go places”. In a world where kids are chauffeured around, that felt like we were on the right path. As I write this, her independent nature had taken her to Australia for 7 weeks. No, it’s not easy to let go, but it’s how we know we’ve done our job!

    Liked by 1 person

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