Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The mighty jungle

Just when you think you’re getting a handle on this parenting lark, someone throws a curve ball at you. It starts really early too. You bring this tiny bundle home from the hospital and all hell breaks loose as you try to learn everything you need. Just as you get the hang of it, baby starts crawling; then walking; then discovering its own will and verbalising it. It seems to me to be one long phase after another.

When we came to Bangkok Son was 11 and about to move to secondary school. At the end of the summer we moved he would’ve been taking himself off on the bus to the local town. Therefore both children were being carefully trained for some months to go short distances alone. This was fine. There was something sort of timely about it: Son wishing to stretch wings and mother, biting her nails to stumps, watching him out the window as he made his way into the village and finally disappeared from view. Mother: totally relaxed at growing Son’s desire for some independence … tearing hair from roots until he reappeared in sight from the village, hopefully clutching pint of milk/loaf of bread…

However, the ‘allow the children some independence’ programme came screeching and skidding to a halt on moving to Bangkok in summer 2005. Mother, in her new territory and not having the lie of the land, kept her cubs close. Cubs, used to a certain level of freedom, were most unhappy at this change of pace; they growled and lashed their claws.

Three years along it’s possible to say with the arrival of mobile phones in the children’s lives and a sense of balance and knowledge of the city for me, that things have reached normality again. And so it continues. We allow, in incremental steps, a little bit more freedom most times that it is requested. I consider this my job as a parent. They will leave home (whether that’s in Asia or Europe) and I want them to be independent, confident, well balanced young people.

They are both showing every sign of being so. Just yesterday Daughter achieved a First …school bus to sky train and travelling on her own to our stop, where she alights and walks home: an incremental step for most, but for a 12 year old and her mother, a giant leap. I don’t want to sound smug (I think I do) but my nails are no more, and I keep looking out the window to spot my cub even though it’s an hour too early to expect her.

And then today, another curveball: a demo at Government House may spill over into other parts of Bangkok, and it is advised to ‘exercise caution’ when being out in the streets. I spent the morning rearranging her travelling timetable and contacting school to try to inform her of it.

Blimey, it’s a jungle out there.

9 comments:

KAREN said...

You're (both) very brave. It is a scary time. I think a lot depends on the child too...one of mine was ready to be independent quite a while before his twin brother, for instance. Hopefully it'll get easier :o)

Lane said...

It's so difficult to let them cultivate a bit of independence isn't it.

I hope she made it home safely through the demonstration.

JJ said...

Karen, I think that's key - waiting for the child to be ready. Either they ask for it, or they turn you down at a gentle suggestion. Either way, it's bloomin' scary.

Lane, she was very late but she made it home just after the curfew!

monica @ transplanting me said...

i am struggling with this right now. we moved to thailand from colorado in january. bringing with us our 8 yr old son, 11 yr old daughter, and 14 yr olds son. we hadn't done much of the freedom thing in the states, mainly because public transportation was nonexistent and school was too far to ride a bike. so we are beginning here. we live in chiang mai - not sure i would ever be ready to make this stop in bangkok!

the kids ride a songthaew to and from school and we are working with our oldest on how to get here and there on one and negotiate the prices and actually arrive! it is a bit scary, but for some reason it also seems easier here.

JJ said...

Monica, nice to see you here. It is hard. While I write (mostly) with a tongue firmly in my cheek it is something that often keeps me awake at night. I think the important thing is that you are trying with your children. Slowly training them, discussing differences like haggling... teaching them phrases such as 'that's too expensive.' It's not somewhere I want my kids to trip up, moving around confidently is important to avoid other sorts of trouble.

Bear in mind I'm posting about how hard it's been and I've been here three years!

The rules are all different; the road crossing rules are bonkers, and yet it was the UK I nearly got killed back in Spring!

If you want to talk, Mum to Mum, email me on my profile...

All the best, JJx

Carol and Chris said...

I'm glad she got home ok hon - thanks for texting me to let me know :-)

C x

Debs said...

It's so scary letting them have that independence and knowing when the time is right.

Fiona said...

We know it's rare for the bogie man to get our children but when he does...

You sound like you're doing a great job treading the middle road.

I worry just as much about my twenty year son as I do about his fourteen year old brother. I guess I always will. It's our job isn't it, to worry?

Angie said...

I was worried about you when I saw that demonstration on the news, and add to that a child trying to be independent...sheesh! I would be such a worrywart.
Glad she navigated it all, which is clearly a credit to you.