Parenting is all about making judgements, about nurturing and knowing when to let go. But do you know when your children are ready to spread their wings, to stay home while you nip to the shop, go out for a meal or go away overnight?
We have brought our children up to be self sufficient, to do for themselves and to help us out with the business. My eldest has been babysitting for us for a couple of hours since he was 11, shocking to some, but he is capable, respected by his siblings and we were never more than a few minutes away. As the years have passed and the children grown up we have encouraged them to do more for themselves. My eldest two at nearly 17 and 15 do all their own washing and can make a light meal not just for themselves but for the rest of the family too and answer most of the queries coming through the business. My only complaint is their reluctance to answer the telephone. I have to shout at the answering machine for one of them to answer when I am trying to ring home and I know they are there. My last resort is facebook messenger on the wi fi as there is always someone chatting there!
Despite all this I have never thought to leave them overnight apart from last year when we were lucky enough to go to the MAD Blog awards. The school holidays are my chance to catch up with them, not to be driven by routine, school and clubs and to indulge in some family time. However Nick and I were also craving some couple time. When he suggested we leave them running the farm and have a 2 day break I laughed. I could see how put out he was by my response, developing a male slump and so began to give it serious consideration. The children could do everything on the farm, except have the confidence to lead the feed run, if Farmer Ted and our apprentice Amber could cover this then what was really stopping us? Guy could run the train as usual, they could cook and wash for themselves, answer most problems arising and rather than wanting Nick and I accompanying them all the time would probably relish a little more independence and trust. Going away in term time is out of the question as they have no way of travelling to school without us. We broached the idea with them and they were all very relaxed about it. I think one of my secret fears was wanting to be a good Mummy, to be there to cook an evening meal as I always did, to go on family outings, to be there to answer the business calls and sort out their sibling squabbles. Actually what the children wanted was more independence, less family outings and more trust.
Realising it was time to let go, to give that trust, especially after Theo had disgraced himself earlier in the year was not easy. However I knew Nick and I needed a break too. We took the plunge, gave the obligatory parental warning about not leaving a hob on and burning the house down or a tap running and flooding the place and left.
It felt strange to be away knowing they were in charge, I knew they wouldn’t contact me unless there was an emergency and I craved a little reassurance that everything was alright. Thankfully I had my spies with 5 bloggers staying on holiday at the farm; huge thanks to One Dad 3 Girls,Minnowmep, Redpeffer, Southwarkbelle and Ruggles Leisure for those little tweets and Instagram pictures with #coombemilleaster that reassured me that all was well.
We returned 2 days later to find everything much as we had left it, no wild parties, punch ups, missing drinks or anything else you might imagine with teenagers home alone. They had enjoyed their freedom and managed the business perfectly and we had benefited from some couple time.
If it were not for Nick pushing me I’m not sure I would have felt ready to take this step, in hindsight I can see it has benefited us all and we will definitely do it again. Our children are growing up, they are young adults now and they have shown they are ready to be treated as such.
I sometimes hear parents here on the farm telling their young children not to run and I wonder why not? If they fall it is only grass beneath them, they won’t break anything but they will begin to learn their limits and come to understand what their body is capable of.
As parents we are programmed to protect our children, however if you can give them space within that protective sphere to flourish and grow and resist the urge to over nurture, even if it means experiencing a few knocks along the way, it will build their independence and self assurance to their benefit and yours one day.
“Tales from the farmers wife” shares the funny and interesting happenings on our lovely holiday farm with Farmer Nick and our 6 children. A behind the scenes look on balancing family, farming, the holiday business and cooking for all.