Opinion with Matthew Munson: Slow steps to independence

Matthew and Bryan

I went back to work this week – crumbs, working a full day is hard, isn’t it? I haven’t had to do that for the past year or so; my hours have been small and very flexible.

I worked three full days this week (something I only have to do during holiday time), and I was exhausted after the third; I’m 40 years old, for heaven’s sake – I know body parts are meant to start failing soon, but fatigue was the last thing on my mind.

We’re fortunate (I would argue) here in Thanet; there’s a plethora of things for children to do. Bryan goes to a holiday club every Tuesday and Thursday during the summer holidays now I’m back to work and spends Wednesdays with his nan and granddad. He can’t wait to go, especially to his grandparents; I’m forgotten about almost as soon as he walks through the door.

I’m a passionate believer in grandparent / grandchild relationships; they’re so important. I’m fortunate that I knew three of my grandparents as I grew up, and I like to think that I’m a better person for knowing them. Of course, Bryan will only have two grandparents, but they’re all besotted with each other – such is the nature of the beast.

He’s growing up, and I’m fascinated by his development; I was inspired to try a couple of things after I spoke to a friend of mine, whose sons are good friends with Bryan (and lovely kids to boot). Firstly, I decided to change how I gave Bryan his pocket money; it’s always been attached to particular chores at home, but I think Bryan used to forget that the two were linked – that you have to earn your money.

There’s an app called GoHenry that allows parents to pay pocket money directly from your bank account to their card; you can monitor their spending really closely, and everything is very open and transparent. Bryan’s card arrived on Friday, and he’ll be getting his pocket money on that from next week – he is very excited about having a card, and I’m happy that he can remember the chores he needs to do to earn his pocket money.

The other thing I tried this week was when we were walking home one day; there’s a little shop just opposite our block of flats, and I floated the idea – as we walked past – of him going in by himself and buying a couple of things. We go into the shop regularly, so he knows where a lot of things are, and he knows the staff – who are lovely.

Bryan’s eyes lit up the second I suggested it; he wondered if I was then going to walk the short distance home and let him then walk back by himself. I wasn’t quite ready for that emotional milestone, but he went in the shop, found the things we needed, paid for them, and had a little chat with the staff; he came out beaming, and I could have burst with pride at him. He wants to do the shopping there every time now; the shine might wear off after a while, but right now, he enjoys the responsibility and I can listen out – so far, so good.

It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Bryan’s ten; I like being a dad and keeping him safe, but he needs to learn that he can do it for himself as well, slowly and steadily. This is a nice start; I think I was about ten or eleven when I was allowed to walk to the corner shop by myself, so I suspect the “overprotective parent” section of my brain needs to sit down with a chamomile tea and let him start exploring a little bit of independence.

1 Comment

  1. Too right Matt, Bryan is at that age where he can be given some responsibility for his actions, and learning stuff is ‘always good’ for them because whether you have good or bad results it means they have learnt from it. Their judgement improves and they enjoy getting it write the next time.
    I remember first being allowed to walk to the local shop with my pocket money on a Saturday when I was about 8-years-old, sometimes with my older brother and sometimes with a friend but also on my own. We lived next to the river and near to London, we walked along the towpath to school and back. We were told not to go on the grass bank, just stay on the path as the water can be a danger. It was different back then and safer on the streets but we learnt quickly only to talk to people we knew. Bryan is a bright young boy and is also learning these life skills. We do need to get over to our youngsters about staying safe though and where to go if we don’t feel safe when on our own. We didn’t have mobile phones back then but learnt to use the telephone boxes on almost every street, just in case. There were more police on the streets as well and you never knew if there would be one around the next corner so that was a bit of a deterrent to those up to no good.
    I am pleased Bryan is learning new things every day and earning his independence with every step along the way. There is fun in growing up, lots of it, and you are doing fine too.

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