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"The biggest ongoing problem with my tween at the moment is one I never expected to have."

If you’re not receiving ‘constructive criticism’ on your parenting decisions on a daily basis from your tween-aged child, how do you even know you’re a parent? Yes, that’s the new daily delight I’ve been receiving in my house in recent months.

My 11-year-old has lots of opinions and feelings about everything. But especially the choices I make for his safety and well-being. Well, he is the offspring of a former lawyer, after all. So really, I only have myself to blame.

It’s great he has independent thought, and he’s developing his negotiation skills. But also, it’s extremely annoying and inconvenient.

We went on holidays recently and had an argument one morning about sunscreen. This is a child who knows he has to wear it because the consequences of not wearing it can be fatal. But after years of compliance, there was suddenly a “you’re not the boss of me” conversation which had absolutely nothing to do with being sun smart. It was just because.

And that’s the most frustrating part of this new tween era. Most of the time, we are bickering about things that aren’t really a choice. Screen time, going to bed at a decent hour, eating food with at least 0.0005% of nutritional value – those are things in life we just have to do if we want to be happy and healthy.

But the biggest ongoing debate in our house at the moment is one I never expected to have.

It’s about before and after school care.

I work in an incredibly supportive company, which permits me to bring my son to work when I need to and understands it’s difficult for me to work after standard business hours. I’m very lucky my employer really gets the issues of being a working mum.

But ultimately, I have a job to do, and it needs to be done in standard business hours. And also, I’m a sole parent, with no family in Sydney. This means my son has to attend both before and after school care, every day.

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The care at my kid’s school is brilliant, and the people are incredible. However, despite that, and despite my kid generally having a good time when he’s there, what I’m noticing is that increasingly, he’s resisting attendance. Basically, he’s just getting too ‘old’ to be in any sort of care – in his opinion.

True, he’s usually only one of a handful of kids his age there – most of them are much younger. The director of the care has addressed this by making my son a ‘leader’ and has tried to give him some grown-up responsibilities. But ultimately, he’s outgrown being ‘looked after’.

So, I’m hearing, “I’m too old. I don’t need to go. Why can’t I just be alone at home?”


The first time I heard this, I was a little surprised because I’d never heard any other mums talk about their kids outgrowing care. It’s only after I asked them about it that I realised it’s a dilemma a lot of working parents face. And it’s something that creates a lot of mother-guilt for them.

In my son’s defence, of course he understands I need to work, and he’s sorry he hassles me about this. But then, he’s also not happy with the situation – because he’s an 11-year-old, and he wants to be a grown up. He wants to be independent.

I got a brief reprieve from the situation over the holidays. But now, facing the new term next week, the issue is raising it’s head again. Hence, my dilemma; because, what choice do I have?

Can my son walk or ride to and from school on his own while I’m at work? Practically – yes – and that would be his preference. Sure, it would only take 12 to 15 minutes. But my issue with that is twofold: a lot can happen in 12 to 15 minutes to a child who’s not even a teenager, and also, what would he do for more than a few hours on his own at home?

You may feel he’s old enough to handle those factors, but I don’t. I feel he’s about a year too young to have so much time alone, and unsupervised. It’s not so much that I don’t trust him, but I don’t feel it’s right for his mental health. Not on a daily basis. As an only child, he gets lonely sometimes as it is.

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Could he catch the bus into work straight after school? Again, at 11, coming into inner Sydney, knowing the bus or train can’t bring him to the office doorstep – that’s a firm no from me.

Don’t get me wrong, I do allow my son freedom to navigate life with his mates when he’s with a bunch of them. But I feel he’s too young to do that alone, every day, right now.

The great thing is, that concept of ‘right now’ mercifully means there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I just repeat to my kid that before and after school care is the best option for us right now. It’s the safest thing to do, so I know where he is and that he’s okay. And I just promise him that the issue won’t be forever. Because, it won’t be – for either of us – thankfully.

Which is great – but I suspect that’s when the truly scary part of parenting will begin…

Do you have issues with sending your child to before and after school care? Tell us in the comments section below. 

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, see her stories here, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.

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