It’s a thought that strikes fear to anyone’s heart – what if my kid walked off in public? What would actually happen? Where would they go and how would they fare? Would a kind adult help them? Would they get lost, or could they find their way back? Or would it go horribly wrong – heaven forbid, would a malicious adult take advantage?
We don’t often get a chance to answer these questions, but recently I was fortunate enough to find the opportunity. The outstanding people at Soul of Sydney were holding their legendary “Funk in the Park” party in Hyde Park, as part of the Sydney Festival. Live music is a rare treat these days, so we happily jumped on a bus and made the trip into town. A bunch of people grooving to good DJs through a thumping sound system on the grass is always a welcome way to spend an afternoon.
On this particular day, out boy was feeling particularly adventurous, he had already run off and been chased down by Mum a couple of times. Next time it was was my turn, and I was told to catch him quickly and give him a strong talking to. But as I closed in on him, curiosity struck, and I held back instead, to try and see if we could all get an idea of how it would actually play out if this scenario was followed through.
It’s a rare experience for any kid, especially these days, to be unsupervised out there in the world like that. A crowd of people in a public place is an important environment to familiarise oneself with, and the opportunity to be able to explore it, undirected, without being distracted by instructions from adults is, well, priceless really.
Because it’s all too easy to succumb to the impulse to pull them back. “No, wait, stop, hey, come here”. But then what happens if one day, they do escape without our noticing? Neither we nor they will have had any experience which could prepare us for it. It begs the question, how best can we prepare for such a situation? How can they really come to understand the consequences of what happens if they walk off? And how often does the opportunity for a learning experience like this come up? Trial runs are invaluable.