One of the aims of scouting is to make young people independent and selfsufficiant. We do a great job for the most part, but it is so difficult to let go and let them try their wings and fly unsupervised.
At the moment I'm reading the Famous Five books aloud to my 10-and-a-half-year-old son. Enid Blyton is so scouting: The children are resourceful, brave and have great social ethos (even if they're very middle-class and sometimes stinking perfect) My son loves the books where they are out camping on their own, or as in this last book, with a supervising adult who lets them do what ever because he trusts them to do the right thing. The Famous Five always stay 11-15, which isn't true for our scouts, who grow from 6-year-old Beavers to 15-year-olds with spots and hormones. As leaders we're their to lead them in the right direction, to guide them gently into adulthood, and to safely let them try their wings and fly under supervision. But when is it time to let them fly on their own?
My soon 13-year-old daughter is tall for her age, has the vocabulary of a 25-year-old and lots of integrity. She is a dream, and a nightmare. All parents want their children to be independent and selfsuficiant. She is that, and she wants to fly on her own. Together with her slightly older friends she has organized a Halloween sleepover, booked the cottage in the woods, sorted a digital projektor, made a budget, a menu, a program and invites. Already a good few people in the group has confirmed. It will be a great sleepover, I'm sure.
As a scoutleader and parent I have very few qualms about letting the kids do this completely on their own. I have offered to be around as back-up, as invisible as I possibly can, as the cottage is a good 45-minute drive from town, and IF something happens it might be a good idea to have someone around who has a driver's licens. Now, my daughter and her friends have decided that they'd like to go to the cottage already on the Thursday, to prepare (and have a bit of fun as well I'm sure). As I'm not prepared to spend three days invisable in the woods, I've said that I'll be joining them on Saturday. They are definatly competent enough to take the bus and hike the last 5 km to the cottage along the country lanes (The Swedish country side is very desolate and peaceful, on account us having a country twice the size of Britain with only 9 million people in it!)
B-P encouraged "his boys" to explore and hike on their own, to practise their skills and to make independent decisions. Some parents might argue that they were different times, more peaceful, and safe, and they are right in some respects, but perhaps our fear of something happening is more crippeling than the accual risk of something happening? Sooner or later we have to let our children go, and if they haven't practised flying on their own at all, they are bound to crash into whatever lampost at some point anyway. What we need to teach them is to risk assess, to listen to their instincts, help eachother out, and to keep to their good values - that goes a tremendously long way!
But nevertheless I'm going to offer a compromise: They'd go on Friday morning, and I'll join them on Saturday afternoon. First flight shouldn't be too long.