Close to home and all the more need to meddle
It has crossed my mind more than once that I’m a completely over-protective mother as I’ve watched a five-year-old wandering around our estate looking after his two-year-old brother, knowing that I would never let my child do the same thing.
Sometimes the older kids (eight and nine year olds) will call to ask if my four-year-old daughter can come out to play. When I say “Yes, we’ll just get out shoes on,” a look of puzzlement crosses their faces. But the fact is that they do get bored and wander off without telling her where they’re going. And, I can’t be sure they won’t let her do something stupid or dangerous, because I see them doing stupid and dangerous things (throwing planks of wood with rusty nails sticking out at each other). So, while I hang back as much as possible to let her play, I’m damned if I’ll let her out without a grown-up to keep an eye on her. No matter how strange the other kids find that.
Yesterday one of those girls told me something about her friend’s mum which troubled me enough to ask as casually as I could for her friend’s house number, so that I can pass her story on to someone who can act upon it. Suffice to say it involves drinking a bottle and a half of wine each day and leaving primary-school age children to put a toddler to bed and wait with her until she falls asleep in her cot.
I’m all for letting people live their own lives – the free-range, vegetarian, Guardian-reading life is never going to be everyone’s choice of lifestyle – but children should be free to be children. Being a grown-up is hard and means taking responsibility, not passing out on the sofa and letting your kids pick up the pieces for their younger siblings. With that in mind, my next stop is the NSPCC to see what I can do to make lives better for these particular children.