Release: 1. To set free from confinement, restraint, or bondage: released the prisoners. 2. To free from something that binds, fastens, or holds back; let go: released the balloons; released a flood of questions. 3. To dismiss, as from a job.
Before you read this post I would just like to start it by saying that it is not as polished as my posts normally are. It was written when I was very upset and from the heart. Apologies if there are errors!
As many of you who read my blog or follow me on Twitter will know, this weekend I went away, all myself. It was an amazing weekend, but this post is not about Britmums Live (that one is still yet to be written!) This post is about leaving your children, and that because of something terrifying which happened to my 12 year old daughter whilst I was away, it has got me thinking about releasing them. About how they cannot stay close beside us forever, and that one day they will be out there on their own, knowing that home is always a safe environment to which they can return.
I have left my children before, many a time. I think it’s a wonderful thing for them to know that they can be looked after and loved by many different people. (Obviously these people are family, or a very close friend and not complete and utter strangers!) This weekend, however, leaving my children was a bit different. My mum came up on Friday to look after the boys and my daughter whilst my husband was at work, and then on Saturday they tagged teamed it and supported each other. Finally, later on Saturday afternoon, my daughter wasn’t going to be a home at all. She had been invited to a sleepover for a school friend’s 12th birthday party and would be away from home herself, in a house I have never been to, with a parent I have only met briefly on a couple of occasions.
I imagine many of you out there with brand new babies or very young children are now sat reading this horrified, as I would’ve been many years ago. We are so used to our children being right by our sides, or on our hips, always close. We are used to being in control of who they see, what they eat, where they go. We forever scan rooms, pathways, parks, play areas for potential risks and danger…catching them when they fall, warning them not to stray too far, telling them where the danger is and how to avoid it. They trust that the world is a safe place, never aware of risks because we spend our lives as parents protecting them from them. However, as children grow up…we need to release them. We need to start helping them to make their own decisions, weigh up the risks and decide what to do and which path to take. They physically become further away from us…at pre-school, at primary school, secondary school. We cannot be around to protect them every single minute of every single day as we so desperately want to and we have to trust that they have listened to years of advice and draw on their experiences in life to make their own choices.
But this weekend my daughter had a choice made for her by another person. And it was the wrong choice. It wasn’t life changing or life threatening. It wasn’t hurtful or dangerous. But it wasn’t her choice, and if it had been it would not have been one she would have made. At the sleepover, whilst I was over a hundred miles away in London unable to help or protect, she was made to watch a film. A film intended to only be watched by persons of 15 years or older. A thriller that scared her more than anything has ever scared her before. I didn’t know this had happened until I awoke this morning to find a text from her on my phone. It had been sent at 4am and simply read…
I want it go home. I watched a scary movie it was a 15 and I can’t go to sleep. I feel sick because I am worried that someone is going to hurt me.
I imagined my daughter, my only just turned 12 daughter, my daughter who is still very much a child, sat terrified all alone. Alone in a house she had never been to before. Alone in a room with some other 12 year olds she didn’t know, and only a few she did. Alone and terrified that someone was coming to get her, to hurt her. She is, as I have described in previous posts, sometimes a handful, sometimes verbally challenging and rule bending, but she is my little girl. She isn’t wise beyond her years, she isn’t ‘street-wise’ and ahead of the game, she hasn’t even begun to go through puberty herself. She is my baby and someone has made a decision that has rocked her safe and secure world.
It’s been a difficult day since then. Obviously I have wanted to race around there and pick her up immediately whilst shouting very loudly at the parent who allowed this to happen whilst she was in her care, but I’m not entirely sure my daughter would appreciate that! So she is still there now, shopping with them on the high street, not fearing the film in the safety of daylight. I’m not sure bedtime or the middle of the night will be so fearless for her later.
And me. Well I have spent the day thinking once again about parenting. I said to my mum on Friday that my instincts were uncomfortable about the sleepover, that I knew something would happen even though I wasn’t sure what. I’d met the girl whose birthday it was, and her mother, and many of the other children that would also be there and thought I was just being over-protective, being a parent who didn’t want to let their child have the independence they so desperately need at this age. What happened to her has made me think about the future and how in a few years time I will not always know where she is, or who she is with or what she is doing. It has made me realised that soon many decisions will be solely hers and I will have no control over that. That one day she will move out and be released into the big wide world…where someone might come along and make bad choices for her, hurt her, terrify her.
It was only a film I hear some of you cry, it’s not like someone really did come and hurt her and you are absolutely right. That film still terrified her and she cannot un-see what she saw, she cannot forget what she heard, and I’m angry that she didn’t get a choice in the matter. Whether or not she watched that film was not someone else’s choice to make, it shouldn’t have been their decision to let my daughter watch a film totally unsuitable for her, not least because she is three years younger than the film’s rating. I’m upset because it made me realise that she’s slowly being released already…slowly having to learn to make decisions herself and learn to be brave enough to walk away from the wrong ones. I know she won’t always make the right choices, or take the best path in life, hell I’ve made some shite choices in my time, but I hope I’ve brought her up to think things through, to make informed decisions…and more importantly than anything…to trust her instincts.