Mother Courage

Things seem to be looking up a bit. A new senior teacher at
James’s school seems, at last, to be taking the problems he
is having with name-calling seriously. And the name-calling, while
it hasn’t gone away, hasn’t been as bad as it was.

So, James is pleased about that and, in any case, he has been
busy waging war on another front this month – his personal
crusade for independence. He has been desperate to be allowed to go
to our local recreation ground (which is two minutes from home) on
his own.

We have stood firm against this request marshalling the usual
parental argument that at eight he was too young. This cuts no ice
with him and with another birthday behind him he has redoubled his
efforts. “The other children in my class are allowed”; “Grandad
lets me go when he looks after me” (he does? First I knew about
it); “It’s not fair”; “I’ll be careful – you can
time me”; “You are mean, horrible parents”, and, “You were allowed
out on your own when you were my age (which I was)” are all
familiar refrains.

Eventually he wore me down and, last weekend made his first solo
trip to the park – just for half an hour – and came
back completely elated. The following day I was out visiting a
friend and came back to find that James had persuaded his dad to
let him visit the park again. This time, however, he and the group
of boys he was with were approached by a group of older boys who
told them that if they didn’t hand over their money and
mobile phones, they would beat them up.

James hasn’t got a mobile phone, but he handed over
£1 that he had in his pocket. The police were called and came
to talk to James (which he quite enjoyed) and he doesn’t seem
to have suffered any ill-effects. I, on the other hand, feel I
should have a t-shirt with the words “unfit parent” emblazoned on

James is undeterred and is worried that this incident will mean
he won’t be allowed out again. “The thing is, mum,” he told
me solemnly, “even though I’m only nine, I feel older and I
can look after myself.”

He can’t of course, but how can he learn if we don’t
allow him any freedom? Then again, is nine too young to be allowed
to go to the local swings for half an hour? Answers on a postcard


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