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Letting Go of the Reins… just a little bit!

By January 9, 2015 No Comments

‘Ghosting my son to the Boxing Day Test Cricket’

Sharon Witt Author and Motivational speaker

Me at the MCG Cricket ground

Okay, so here is a post that it likely to spark some hefty debate and varied responses. At what age/stage to you let your child (teenager) travel into the big city to attend an event such as the cricket, football, soccer or concert by themselves? By using the term ‘by themselves’ I am referring to, with a friend/ mate or group of friends.

This very subject has, I’m sure been a topic of intense debate between parents for many decades.
It certainly was when I was a teenager. I can still recall my mother not allowing me to ride the forty minute train trip with fifteen or so of my classmates to attend a birthday party when I was fifteen years old and in Year 10 at school. I was the ONLY ONE who had to be dropped off and picked up by my mum!

Indeed this has been the very topic of (often heated) debate between my husband and I over the past nine months- not to mention various opinions thrown in by grandparents, aunties, uncles, neighbours and anyone else who happens in on this conversation. At what stage do you allow your child to experience the world with a bit more freedom than was previously afforded them? When do you begin to let go of the reins?

Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg has said “Past actions and behaviours are a good predictor of future actions and behaviours.” In other words, if your child/teenager has been responsible and safe in their past behaviours and experiences, chances are they will act accordingly in the future. I think this is wise advice.

So the most recent debate in our household came up several weeks before Christmas when my fourteen and eleven month old son (who I can still picture CLEARLY as a toddler) wanted to attend the Boxing Day Cricket Test (a big event in Melbourne!) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with his best mate…..alone!!! Unaccompanied!!!
Now, whilst his best mate could quite possibly pass for eighteen years (despite being a week younger that my son) my son would be a stretch to pass for fourteen! (Just picture the movie ‘Twins’ starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger and you’ll get the visual!)

Heated debate ensued with my husband. Words such as ‘cotton wool parent’ and ‘Molly coddler’ were thrown at me, whilst I defended that it wasn’t my son’s actions that concerned me, rather the drunken idiots that would glass people for looking at them the wrong way!

Our compromise was that I would also attend the Boxing Day Test, but I would go ‘incognito.’
In other words, I would “Ghost the boys!” If you are familiar with the movie “Drillbit Taylor” starring Owen Wilson, you’ll get a visual of the situation. In the hilarious movie, Wilson plays a bodyguard to a group of schoolboys who are being bullied during their first year of high school. One of my favourite lines uttered by Wilson in the movie goes

“Just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I’m not here!”

And so began our day.
My mission, I stated, was not to talk to the boys or approach them- but just be around.
My plan began to become a little unstuck a mere five minutes into the experiment when the boys of course, successfully purchased their tickets and boarded the train city bound, whilst the train doors closed on me as I was still trying to work out how to ‘validate’ my ticket! Surely it’s valid because I just purchased it!!!

After yelling at the train doors to open, I was comfortably seated on the train and ready to get stuck into reading my new book. Fully immersed into Chapter Two of my book, I was suddenly interrupted by a startling “MUM!!!!!”

“What! Are you in trouble son? I knew you would need me!” (I thought)
“Mum!” my son called out again from somewhere within the carriage. “You have to change trains here!”
Fail number two to mum! If not for my son paying attention, I’d be somewhere on the other side of the city by bow heading out to Geelong!

We soon arrived in the city and the swarm of travellers flowed like larva to the hallowed turf of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I left the boys at the station and instructed that I would meet them at our seats in the stadium. This was something that I really needed to do on my own, to prove to myself that I didn’t need two teenage boys to find my way to the cricket in one piece!
I am happy to report that I arrived comfortably at my seat a safe 3 minutes before the boys appeared. I must also mention here that it was my fourteen and eleven month old son who sliced up the left over leg ham from Christmas Day, made sandwiches for himself and his mate, not to mention packing drinks, snacks AND sunscreen!!

As I settled in Chapter 5 of my book, I couldn’t help but feel a little proud of these young men. Whilst they came and went to various sections of the ground during the day, the crown was quite reasonably behaved. In fact, the most risqué event that I witnessed was a group of fans who attempted to produce the world’s longest snake by putting hundreds of plastic beer cups together- an event that was soon ceased by the fun police!

As I followed the boys back to the station to board the train home (as I had absolutely NO idea which direction the train station was- BOY that MCG has a LOT of exits!!) I have to admit that Dr Michael Carr-Gregg’s advice is not too far off the mark. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this excursion today, with two very responsible and kind young men- who even asked this lady, if I’d like to sit with them on the train ride home!

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