Every day Joan dies a thousand deaths when Callum’s son goes to school alone. While: He is eleven years old. You think it’s time to cut that umbilical cord.
“Soon in the seventh group everyone will cycle to school without parents.” Callum, the six-year-old sitting safely on my back, tells it triumphantly. I react with horror and disbelief. Even though his school is 1.4km from our house and it takes 10 minutes, I can’t imagine ‘just cycling’ at all. Certainly not because there is an inconspicuous intersection on the road. I find the idea that my man would ever have to wade through Amsterdam traffic on his own unbearable.
Unaware of my thoughts, Callum lists which of his friends’ older siblings he was allowed to do even in sixth grade. I joke that it is different if you have several children, then you can take a chance. In the meantime I think: it will not happen. never. I will even accompany you if you have to go to university later.
Now, a few years later, his prediction has come true and I’m dying a thousand deaths every single day. Callum—now a seventh grader—goes to school on a sturdy camper bike with classmate Philene, who lives two blocks away. I’d rather run after him or follow him covertly from a distance. I think it’s terrifying to go it alone.
Of course he passed his traffic exam neatly and we practiced walking all summer holidays. He knows how to look left, right, left, extend his hands and he even received a special phone from us for this expedition. This he calls every morning as soon as he arrives. To avoid being embarrassed in front of his class, he only has to ring the bell once. He does it honestly, but on one occasion he forgot I called the boss in a complete panic at 8.35am: is Callum possibly already in class HBB?
to grow up
Let’s go, I think it’s important. I’m just really bad at it. For me, this first came to light when Callum was five months old. At the counseling desk, I was told if I had already started a vegetable snack. I gave the doctor a look-glass: A vegan snack? How is that? He drank his mother’s milk gently. I would give him the bottle all year round, it seemed so easy to me. It was a kid, they took everything liquid, right? Did you know that they can actually store their bread and pasta away at the age of nine months? I was disappointed that it was no longer fully supported.
With all he could, I just thought: Please stay young.
Anyway, I thought he grew up pretty quickly. This tiny little thing, the larval part, in which you lie on your chest for hours, barely lasted about eight weeks. Then Callum wanted to turn around, sit down, make sounds and pick up toys. Aunties and Grandpa and Grandma clapped their hands as hard as they could, but all I thought was, Please stay young.
“The umbilical cord is still stuck between us,” I always exclaim when someone suggests I should let my son be more free. Maybe because I was a single mother when I had him, after waiting ten years for him to arrive. Ten years in which I had four miscarriages. But it can also be a clumsy personality trait. Or something motherly, because I have more friends who would rather lock their children up in golden cages. Fortunately I am not the only one.
“Out of the park? Did he know how many pedophiles there were? “
They started dating, otherwise Callum would still be in the front yard with the stage and trampoline. He was four and a half years old when my friend Denise asked me when my son could go out to the park. He looked at it that way for a while and thought Callum might enjoy swinging with the neighborhood kids on the playground in front of our house. Uh… never? Does he know how many child molesters and others Predators were walking around? Behind the fence seemed very safe to me. Of course I resigned myself to this too. Admittedly, I sat on the seat near the sandbox like an akela for the first few weeks, but when that also got a little silly, I quit. Although I still check everything about ten times an hour through the kitchen window.
Also read – Child suddenly in senior years: “Have you let him go enough?” >
to school for the first time
In the same period, Callum also goes to school for the first time. Until then he was in the nursery and I could read and write with his wonderful teachers. Even though I called three times a day to ask how things were going, no one made a fuss about it. When I picked it up or put it back in, I took the time to go day or night with them. With Callum back in kindergarten, a kiss and a hug from my son proves to be the only carry-on.
I had planned to go to school only for half a day during the first month and had agreed on this with my clients. Can he and I calmly get used to the idea. On Monday, Callum walked into his class with a knot in my stomach.
“Now I ran out of the building crying, straight to the bakery to relieve myself.”
On the way I told him we would buy something nice at the toy store in the afternoon if he didn’t cry when we said goodbye to him. He looked at me with a surprised look: huh, cry? Why? School was fun, right? That’s right, the only one who didn’t keep it dry was me. Once I saw Queen Máxima crying at the news because she had taken Amalia to kindergarten. At the time I thought that was so ridiculous. Now I myself ran out of the building in tears, straight to the bakery to relieve myself of something delicious.
The child did not need to be rewarded. Callum wasn’t in any trouble, as it turned out when I came to pick him up again around noon. He stated that the school was really great and that from now on he wanted to have full days and not half days like other kids. A week later he asked if he could stay too and suddenly I had the entire month of adaptation to myself.
I found it hard that he was suddenly so big and seemed to need me less. Of course I don’t want a son who is still home with his mummy at 30, I want Callum to grow up to be an independent and balanced boy. So far working fine. But this does not mean that it is easy for his mother. The balance between letting go and pulling on the reins continues to be balanced daily struggle.
Staying with a friend is fine of course, but at that time a boy from his class asked him to go to a holiday home somewhere in the woods for the weekend, with his dad, I just made up an excuse. I did not know the child in question and his father, and the thought of a lonely man with two children put a funny taste in my mouth. Call me exaggerated or suspicious, but I didn’t dare give the Brussels sprouts a try.
to leave of
Riding with others, such a scary thing. “Bring it home” as an addendum to a birthday party invitation means three swallows to me. Do they drive carefully? Aren’t there a lot of kids in the car? Do they wear seat belts? Aren’t they speeding? Callum’s best friend likes to brag that his parents can cover the distance from Amsterdam to Eindhoven in an hour. I don’t exactly think it’s a recommendation, if you think the average person takes about twice that. Especially with my son.
“I like driving to the first legs myself, at least I’m sure he’ll arrive in one piece.”
I usually come up with a reason to bring him to playdates or pick him up from a party myself, and then say, “He gets car sick easily, otherwise he might spit in your car,” or “We happen to be in the zone.” . I like driving myself to away games, at least I’m sure he’ll get there in one piece.
He’s allowed to go to his soccer club with his teammate, because he doesn’t have to cross a dangerous road and he’s through a park with clean bike paths, but I always take him. Callum can’t come back in the twilight, no matter how many players come back with him.
Anyway, I’d rather be there for his training sessions and matches in case something happens. It’s no exaggeration, proven the one time I wasn’t, because I had tickets for a stage show and Callum was unexpectedly in the final of the school football tournament. Exactly then he collided with the guard, which resulted in a slight concussion. I was just entering the room when my phone rang. It was his teacher who said: “Joanne, don’t be upset, everything is under control, but…” I could cry and because of the tension I saw nothing of the performance.
Also read – Mariette: “I stood waving along the line with a bleeding heart.”>
Because prevention is better than cure, I try to increase Callum’s self-awareness and self-reliance. One day he had to – oh horror – go to high school, and now I find it terrifying if he wanted to go to the neighborhood football field by himself. I can’t always be with you and that would be weird too; He’s 11 now, so you don’t want chaperones anymore. I have to make him recover. I do this, among other things, by telling him about the potential dangers and how he should respond to them.
Danny, one of his soccer friends, recently had his iPhone 13 stolen in the middle of the day. Danny was catching Pokemon in the neighborhood when an older boy on a motorbike snatched his new phone from his hands. Danny was devastated and developed street fright because of it.
I discussed that incident with Callum at length, especially since he so heroically claimed that he himself would never have his phone stolen. He was so strong, he was fighting like a ninja for a while. I didn’t think that comment was so clever and risky either. I urged him to steal from him (his bike/jacket/bag) whatever he wanted to hand him over without mercy. Don’t argue, please don’t take a beating.
in case of emergency
On the idea alone, I almost lingered at it, but it really is if I let him do his own thing more. After all, there are bad guys out there and they also hang around schoolyards, playgrounds, and (secured) soccer fields. When choosing things, we are now already deliberately taking a less expensive variant. Mobile phone second or third hand is good and has a good bike not electric or fat bike for 2000 euros.
“Well, it takes effort, but the umbilical cord is being cut little by little.”
He also knows my number by heart and I tell him to look for a mother in case of an emergency. If he feels threatened, find a woman with a stroller or baby and tell her you’re afraid. She will call me for you or help you. I completely trust the maternal instinct of my fellow mothers in this regard. Well, it takes effort, but the umbilical cord is being cut little by little.
This article appears in Kek Mama 12-2022.
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