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Laura Perrins: Let your children go wild? Can you handle the inevitable A&E inquisition?


National Children’s Day will take place on Sunday 11 May. The website implores us to Go Wild!

The aim of the National Children’s Day UK is to get as many people as possible to create events and activities that highlight and celebrate the rights and freedoms of children.

The website states that, in 2014 we are looking at how important nature is to children and how ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is impacting on child wellbeing.

This is a very welcome aspect of National Children’s Day and the website gives plenty to worry about how screens dominate children’s lives, how risk taking is a thing of the past, and how even ten-year-olds doing chores is considered unusual.

“Children spend so little time outdoors that they are unfamiliar with some of our commonest wild creatures. According to a 2008 National Trust survey, one in three could not identify a magpie; half could not tell the difference between a bee and a wasp; yet nine out of ten could recognise a Dalek.”

Now I think it is easy to point the finger at parents, but it is very hard to let even older children roam around the street when they are essentially reserved for cars and traffic.

Even though my own street in South East London remains quiet for much of the time it is deeply irritating that this space, although small, is essentially reserved for the one or two cars that will go through it every hour.

I have organised a number of “playout sessions” for the summer, but even this is quite contrived and artificial. Still it is better than nothing.

The term ‘free range children’ is becoming more and more fashionable these days – the idea of allowing children to entertain themselves and learn to take risks. I find this appealing.

And although I know it probably applies to older children, those free range advocates have to appreciate that if you live in the UK it can be difficult to let the children ‘go wild.’

I often encourage my admittedly young children to entertain themselves in the house. But one day as they were ‘free ranging’ in and out of the sitting room my daughter pulled the door which happened to have my son’s finger stuck in it.

Now, we do refer to this as ‘the accident’ but Matthew does sometimes say “Annabelle, door, pull”.

What followed was quite traumatic even as I reminded myself at the time that it was ‘only a finger.’ A long wait in A and E was followed by stitches under anaesthetic.

What was worse about the whole thing, however, was when I was ushered into the ‘little room’ by the on duty doctor to be cross-examined over what happened.

Now I know they have to do this, but it is just so undermining. I felt terrible as it was, but what am I to do? Follow him around all day, telling him to be careful every two minutes resulting in a nervous and over anxious child?

If it happened again I doubt ‘he was free ranging’ is going to cut the mustard. So this is what we parents have to deal with: the State constantly monitoring our every move.

We should not be surprised then if children are kept under lock and key, plugged into the screens.

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