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A friend was due to arrive for tea. I had planned to do bake some biscuits, but I was out of butter. I turned to Grub, who is 8½. ‘Would you like to go and buy some butter?’ I asked him.

‘From Mr Singh’s?’

‘No, from the supermarket.’

I fully expected him to jump at the chance. He already occasionally goes to the local corner shop. I assumed he’d love the chance of more freedom.

But I was wrong. Grub stared at me horror. ‘What, on my own?’ he said. ‘No.’

‘Why not?’

He paused. Then, ‘I might get run over,’ he said.

I reminded him that the seven-minute walk to the supermarket, takes the following route:
• a short stretch of pavement
• a footbridge
• across a quiet cul-de-sac road
• along another short pavement
• down the footpath to the back of the supermarket.

No cars.

He thought again. ‘I might get lost,’ he said.

He’s lived here all his life. The supermarket is our nearest shop. It’s the way to school.

Then, ‘I might get lost inside,’ he said.

‘And what would you do then?’

‘Ask a member of staff for help,’ he replied dutifully.

‘OK. So now do you want to go and buy some butter?’ I said.

‘No thanks.’ And off he scurried, before I could ask any more.

I was, frankly, taken aback. He is perfectly capable of going to the supermarket on his own on a small errand. He’s ready to. He needs to. And I’m ready to let him (though whether that’s relevant is another matter.) All those messages about traffic, strangers, about what to do if you’re lost, about staying near Mummy, about how to ask for help… well, it seems that they’ve got through, loud and clear. Too loud and clear.

What’s going to happen to our kids if we continue to drip-feed them with the fear of god?

Later that day, Grub did, in fact, go to the supermarket – but only because his friend was allowed to go too. I wrote my number on his hand. Less than 30 minutes later, they charged back in, bursting with adventure: how they’d run all the way, couldn’t find the butter, asked for help, agreed to buy two packets of one brand that was on offer, chatted to the check-out man, helped the woman in the queue in front of them unload her trolley…

I got my butter. And I believe that they got a taste of something much sweeter than biscuits.

So what could I run out of next…

1 Comment

  1. All goes to show, Tamsin, that children will happily do things with a friend that they won’t dare to/holds no interest for them on their own.

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