Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places.

With supervised points of entry that are only accessible by plane or ferry, the island would be correctly defined as a closed community.  Even though we welcome hundreds of people a day to visit, there’s definitely a familial recognition amongst residents and a sense of security that comes along with that.

Something that parents of the island can take comfort in is the knowing that even if we’re not around to keep a watchful eye on our own children, there are plenty of other adults who wouldn’t hesitate to offer assistance, protection, care, or correction if it were necessary in our absence.

20150918_152541Many of these folks wouldn’t hesitate to speak to a
child if they felt they were behaving unsafe or inappropriate, whether that be climbing atop a building or using foul language on a sports pitch in the company of young children.  If the adult observer didn’t mention it to the child directly, it’s likely that the parent would sensitively be informed later on.

The same goes for children who are behaving well; there’s an invisible veil of protection that comes with everyone knowing everyone.  If a child was unaware of danger from a suspicious stranger or possible wrong decision, I haven’t a doubt that someone in the community would observe this and, without reservation, they would step in to ensure the child’s safety.

I’ve had conversations about this with both islanders and visitors more times than I could count, so when my two oldest boys (aged 8 and 9 years) asked to go to the park alone one day this summer, I agreed with only little consideration.  The catch was they needed to make their own way home, nearly an hours walk, as I had to work and couldn’t collect them.

Later that evening while at work I was serving drinks to two island gentlemen.  One of them mentioned that he had passed my boys walking home and offered them a lift to which they had declined.  ‘Oh ya, I told them they had to walk, no taking lifts from anyone.’

His friend responded loudly saying I was wrong, this wasn’t America or even the mainland, implying that I was trying to shelter them from a harm that didn’t exist, that I didn’t trust my community.  His response felt less criticizing and more so like genuine heartfelt concern.  But I knew this wasn’t how I felt so I deflected his remarks by saying that I wanted to see how much the boys really wanted to go– would they be willing to walk home?

This was not entirely the truth though I didn’t yet realize it.

The conversation was over but still in my thoughts.  Honestly, I knew darned well they would be willing to walk home, but it ended the chatter and gave me time to think.  Why didn’t I want them to take a lift when I knew very well they would only get offers from other islanders?  After all, the majority of visitors had taken the 5 pm ferry back to the mainland and the ones still here wouldn’t be driving anyway.

We’ve always encouraged our children to make decisions for themselves.  Sometimes the choice are rigged, meaning a choice between two things where both are acceptable to us or, my favourite, choices where most are so undesirable that they would view our preferred one as best.  We want them to learn to trust themselves and their own decision making abilities.  Why would they trust their own instincts if we’re constantly making them do things the way we want or think is best, sending the message that their own thinking is inferior to ours and undermining their confidence?  This is as hard as it sounds.  They don’t always make the choices we want them to.

So that was it.  I wasn’t trusting they would make a 20150918_152133common sense choice when it came to accepting a lift.  Of course they would. I’ve picked up other children walking and given them lifts home–my own children are just as sensible and have an internal radar that guides them too.  They wouldn’t hop in with strangers.  We’ve taught them that.

Relieved by this insight, Johnny and I talked to the children about it.  Seems the boys had declined three lifts that day, one from a pony and trap that nearly killed them to say no to.  

Next time I saw him, I thanked the man who challenged me that day at the bar.  His words led me to a bit of soul searching which put me in my children’s shoes helping me realize how very capable they are. They’ve since been to the main village again and gratefully accepted offers home, sadly none from pony and trap though, but I’m thinking there’s a lesson in patience and timing there for them.

Rejoice in your freedom of choice!

Melissa Xx

dr seuss choices 

37 Comments

  1. Confidence in one’s own decision making is so important as a child. That’s one thing I would have liked when I was a child. I think it would have made a profound difference in my years of early adulthood. It’s not that I didn’t make decisions early on, but I made many without guidance, being pretty sure that my parents would say ‘no’.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh my gosh Liz, ditto to that!! I made many decisions with the guidance of peers, not trusting myself, and often found myself dealing with some awful consequences. Yes, I survived, but if I can spare my children any of that then it was all worth it. There’s no way of knowing, but so far so good. I’m not taking my eyes and ears off them for long, that’s for sure.

      Like

  2. I find it important to guide the kids and learn them to take their own decisions. On the other way, I do know and have seen it as an adult and felt it myself as a kid, we can not believe in all people. There are sick people all over, but you should be more safe, where you live Melissa. Great that you got the talking at home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right, Irene, there are bad people everywhere, even here. I have told the children that–we don’t know who they are but it would be foolish to think out of 800+ people that there are not some untrustable ones amongst us. There are far more that I know well and can really trust though. Still, as you say, the talking has to take place at home in order for them to go out and apply it. Have a fab week, Melissa 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Greg says:

    I think it’s great you didn’t just brush off the comment as many (myself, too, perhaps) would and digested it to come to a better decision for your family as a family. And I have to admit to a degree of jealousy that you all have that “freedom” that has long been lost here in the US, even in most smaller, more rural communities. Oh, the days of “Mayberry” and Sheriff Taylor, how I miss them. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Funny you say that Greg because it has been in my head for weeks. I knew it was worthy of writing about and perhaps necessary to get it out of my day to day thoughts. One thing I have said over and over and over to those who inquire about how very different it must be living here than US is this– living on an island ANYWHERE is a huge change. Ireland is different yes, but an island off US would definitely also be different. It’s hard to explain. There are advantages and disadvantages, both unique to being on an island. Perhaps that is a post of it’s own? Though there are some aspects about US living, mainly politics and security, that seem just insane as I view from afar. Again, not something I want to discuss here.

      I do miss The Andy Griffith Show and may google some episodes now. Wonder what my children would think? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • So true, I very often consciously think about how my own childhood compared. There are no simple choices when it comes to doing right by the children that’s for sure. So far so good, but certainly is one situation at a time.

      You too have an incredible week!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. susurrus says:

    When I was 9, I was briefly taken away from my friends into an area of garages and wasteland by a strange man. Eventually my instincts kicked in. I made a fuss; he let me go and ran away. Luckily I came to no harm. I don’t think I would have got into a strange car but I’ve never been able to understand why I didn’t apply the many warnings I’d been given about looking at puppies or being offered sweeties to him asking me and my friends to help him find his little boy, who he said was lost. The answer is children are innocent, and have a right to stay that way.
    You can’t wrap your children up in cotton wool and I’m glad you live in a safer place. I’d just suggest from my own experience that all children are taught to think creatively about the type of things they might be told.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have told our children they can’t trust everyone. In a community of 800ish there are thieves, there are liars, there are people who hurt other people and animals and they might be who we least expect. Honestly, it’s very hard to let them go anywhere ever. I too had childhood experiences with at best disingenuous and at worst evil adults.

      I try not to worry, don’t want to attract that which I am hoping to avoid. It’s hard to find the balance between over talking it with them and instilling fear and paranoia, and not talking about it enough. A matter-of-fact , more casual, that is just the way the world is approach to the conversation seems to get through to them and get some dialogue going–and not when they are about to walk out the door to head somewhere!

      There are eyes everywhere here, many, many that I know well and really can trust. That brings me much comfort but I still don’t send them off anywhere–walking home from park, blackberry picking, or dog walking– individually. They do need space to grow and explore and opportunities to apply what we teach them though. It really is day by day and listening to my gut. Yes isn’t always yes, and no isn’t always no.

      I hope this all makes sense Susan. There are no easy, black and white choices when protecting children and raising them to be independent with good self esteem are there?

      Liked by 1 person

      • susurrus says:

        It makes every sense. You’re a wonderful mother. I hesitated a while before leaving my comment and would be quite happy if you wanted to delete it now you’ve seen it. My mother would tell you otherwise but as a child I was often free to roam (it was a different time) and it’s a wonder I got into as little trouble as I did. In other ways I was very protected. My gut feel is that it’s overprotection that really limits a child’s confidence, not just when they’re young but when they’re grown up too. The worst thing in the world would be to let the odd, rare incident condemn generations of children to a life locked up in doors.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I wouldn’t dream of deleting your brave comment. Really appreciate that 1) you gave a contrasting view to mine and 2) that you spoke so personally to explain your thinking. I thought about elaborating in my post, so so much more to say on the topic of trust, freedom, dangers, timing etc of allowing children space. But sometimes it can just get so wordy, covering more topic than the original post intended. I felt keeping it lighter was better and hoped if anyone had more to add then discussion would ensue here in comments, as it has.

          It’s not easy to let them out on their own, my gut says it does them more harm to hold them back, as you said, but they do hear ‘no’ much more than ‘yes’– Johnny is much stricter than me. Perhaps because my mother was so strict and denied us participating in dances and gatherings that I desperately wanted to take part in. I cried myself to sleep many, many nights over such things. I was quite wild as a teen, when she seemed to just give up on trying to contain me and the world was wide open to me. I was so unprepared and made many wrong choices. Funny how protecting can sometimes do more damage than good in the overall picture.

          Mostly I want them to think for themselves, trust themselves, and dare to stand apart from the crowd if needed–to be confident. I know they are young, but, of course, it starts from the crib and it never stops until they are out in the world on their own. I want them to know I trust them (and how valuable that is and how easily it can be lost) and mistakes are ok too, that’s how they learn that what we’re telling them now has some relevance after all isn’t it?! 😉

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          • susurrus says:

            I didn’t get to see Split Enz during the era when they were all wearing clown costumes. That nearly killed me.

            On a lighter note my mum led me to believe that turning on a gas oven was extremely dangerous. During my first cookery lesson school (I’d be 11 or 12), the teacher casually said ‘turn on your ovens’. I remember thinking ‘Are you joking? We’re all just kids!!!’ I wouldn’t have been a bit surprised if there’d been an explosion. I’m still more comfortable assembling food than cooking it – I’d love to blame my late start if I could, but I think it’s down to me.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Well that gave me a good giggle. The cooker an be a bit daunting, never mind if the pilot light has to be lit manually. And I have to admit to googling Split Enz–where was I at that time?? Will youtube them and catch up. 🙂

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  5. nanacathy2 says:

    Such a hard one. I explained to my boys that stranger doesn’t just mean someone you don’t know, it also means someone behaving strangely ie out the the norm. Including offering lifts to children
    Paedophiles don’t come with labels, they look like everyone else. In the end you have to trust your children’s common sense and a nice straightforward rule of don’t accept lifts works fine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like your explanation of ‘someone behaving strangely’. It makes total sense. For now they don’t get to go off on their own, when they go to the park together they stay together. I would not feel comfortable with them individually off on their own–they are just too young.

      Liked by 1 person

      • nanacathy2 says:

        Now there’s another thought. When they were teenagers and went out with friends, that rule O gave them was never to leave one of the group on their own, always to stay together. Unfortunately number two son took this to extremes and I ended up ferrying many a drunk friend home when number two couldn’t get them back to the village with him. I never complained but my thoughts were unprintable!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Janice Wald says:

    HI,
    This is an interesting post about trust and community (trusting community?). I think your parental instincts kicked in and taught your children a valuable lesson. Even if there was no realistic threat that day (and there might have been,) there could be a realistic threat another day, and they learned to protect themselves from that. As parents we make hard calls.
    I’m Janice from MostlyBlogging. I know people here–Colleen (Silver Threading,) Andrew…
    Thank you for visiting my site today (still Tuesday in California). I’m glad you liked my About page.
    Nice to meet you.
    Janice

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice to meet you also Janice. We have some good people in common. It is through Ronovan that I ended up on your site. Much more for me to read there when time permits (this winter!)

      Thanks for taking your busy time to visit me also.

      All the best,
      Melissa

      Liked by 1 person

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