T turns sixteen next week. Sixteen! It’s not really a shock, I mean he towers over me (and I’m not short) and he’s finished school (for now). But, sixteen! Really?
In many ways he is very mature. He’s considered one of the more sensible ones of his group of friends. He is often the voice of reason and he’s generally pretty level headed. I’m sure he has his moments when he is out with his friends. I’m sure the T that we see is different to the T that his friends see. But his basic good nature and sense of right and wrong shine through, I hope.
Last weekend his cadet group won the County Competition for the second year running, wining 5 of the categories before taking the overall prize. A very proud moment. He is in the running for a section leader when they return in September. I thought this might be a bit like becoming a sixer at Cubs – based on age and by default – but apparently not, this is based on merit and for showing potential. I keep my fingers crossed for him.
The weekend before that he was on his DofE final expedition up in the Peak District. He got through it in his group of 6 with no issues. The food was awful but they were one of the first groups to complete each day’s route and they were all pretty sensible about drinking enough water. He prepared all his own gear to take (I buy what he asks me to and he packs it) and I really had very little involvement in any of the whole 2 years of his taking part in the scheme other than handing over money. Oh, and doing his washing on his return, of course.
He is travelling up to Scotland at the beginning of next month to compete in the National Cadet Competition, flying up with 4 other cadets and 2 leaders. He’ll pack his own stuff, get himself up and ready to leave the house at 5am. He won’t need any looking after. He’ll have a great time.
He’s clearly pretty mature and sensible. He doesn’t really give us cause for concern. So, why haven’t I let him go away for the weekend with three friends? A month or so ago, the prospect of a trip was mentioned. Parents of one of his friends own an apartment in Cumbria and they had offered for him to take a couple of friends up there for a break. On their own. My initial reaction was to assume that they would never get organised, it would cost too much to get there, they wouldn’t be able to find dates when they were all around, etc. Basically, I stuck my head in the sand. It turns out the prospect of time away from parents made them quite resourceful and they found out about coach timetables, dates etc.
T explained the (still slightly vague: “it costs about £30 and takes about 4 hours”) plan to us and asked us what we thought, could he go? We said we would discuss it. I already knew my answer and after a night of contemplation (mainly me imagining various scenarios, questioning my sanity for even considering it but feeling I owed it to him to think it through, albeit irrationally as any thought process is as 4am) and a discussion with K the answer was “No”. The reasons? It is a long way away: four hours by coach, means at least 3 hours by car. And, they are only 16 (or not quite, in T’s case) and, in my opinion, not old enough to deal with potential issues (illness, injury) alone whilst waiting for a parent to drive 3 hours to support them.
Yes, he has just spent 3 days and nights trekking through the Peak District and had nothing worse than a couple of blisters to show for it. But he had adult supervisors within 10 miles of his location at all times. There were checkpoints all along the way. And I STILL worried about him. Not worried to death, but just, you know, hoping he was OK and wondering how he was getting on sort of worried. A normal level of worry.
Five days in Cumbria with 3 friends, all of whom are great boys. They look out for each other. They’re not stupid. But no adults nearby; no-one to keep an eye on them, make sure they are OK; no-one to help out in an emergency; in an area that, apart from the friend whose parents own the apartment, none of them knows; with us three hours (at least) drive away. Part of me hoped for just one other parent to say “no”. Not because I need validation that I am making the right decision, but just so he’s not the only one not allowed to go. He’s taken it really well, considering. He’s a bit miffed but he’s not a sulker.
I know he will want to go away with friends, to festivals, on holiday abroad, very, very soon. And I know I need to let him. But, at not-quite-yet 16 I think it is too much, too young.