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Kids who rush in where others fear to tread

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Are the children of working moms braver than the offspring of stay-at-home moms?

London - Are the children of working moms braver than the offspring of stay-at-home moms? This question vexed a group of us as we sat in the twilight of a chilly Cornish evening on the last day of the Easter holiday.

We were watching our youngsters play in the garden. Mine were racing around in pyjamas oblivious to the cold weather and the fact they could see their breath in the dusky air. The other family’s offspring were wrapped sensibly in coats and wellies. One may even have been wearing a hat.

That day I had witnessed my trio of trouble, aged five to nine, introduce the more safety-conscious youngsters to all manner of risky pursuits: naked trampolining, exploding things in the microwave, doing backflips off the sofa and Sellotaping each other to the door, the dog and an elderly relative.

As the other children with us watched with a mixture of confusion and boggled-eyed amazement, I overhead one of them mutter “is that a real gun?” as Gracie waved a toy one. And I could see the “newbies” were even contemplating some mildly rebellious behaviour themselves: possibly not washing their hands after going to the loo.

“We never do that on holiday,” my middle child informed them. “Or have baths or go to bed on time. It’s the rules.”

Which is not true, by the way, they do wash their hands.

I wondered if my youngsters’ robust attitude to personal safety is in some way influenced by the fact I work and am, therefore, not able to “helicopter parent” them. I’ve had to relinquish control over their every move (which is how I suspect I would mother them if I stayed at home) and let them have more independence.

Has this made them more courageous, physically and mentally? The mom holidaying with us doesn’t work, and there were differences in the way our children behaved. She didn’t have to yell “mind the road” every five minutes. She didn’t have the local A&E number on speed dial.

When her son asked if he could please kick a football around on the lawn, I didn’t understand the question. Mine never ask permission for any outdoor activity - unless it involves starting a fire.

They’ve always been this way. When we put toddler locks on the kitchen doors, it made them more determined to find out what manner of secret stuff was being locked away.

Yet, perhaps, this isn’t to do with parenting. Maybe my friend’s children are different characters from mine?

Perhaps, as Mr Candy pointed out in a bid to head off a lengthy debate about whether moms should work or not, the question is about as relevant as asking: “Are ginger-haired children better at backstroke than blondes?”

We only got sidetracked into the debate after discussing the National Trust report which this week listed 50 outdoor activities children should do before they are 11-and-three-quarters.

The list included everything from building a den to catching a fish in a net. Apparently, a quarter of children today don’t play outside and a third of them have never climbed a tree. Instead, they’re glued to electronic devices or plonked in front of the TV. And many parents have fallen prey to the health-and-safety worry brigade who advise against the kind of play that may result in minor scrapes.

I’m pleased that my children have done all 50 things the report suggested. But, I wondered, did they do them in the spirit of adventurous curiosity or because I wasn’t always there to stop them?

“Who can say?” (to borrow a phrase from Gracie-in-the-middle). You can’t blame everything on being a working mother, can you?

When the two girls and their brother read through the list, they were perplexed.

“But none of these are really dangerous,” remarked Henry, the youngest. “They haven’t got eat a meringue the size of your head or hang upside down from the bannisters,” he continued, as we contemplated an alternate list - that my trio have also ticked off.

These include falling backwards off a chair, getting a doll’s earring removed from your own inner ear in hospital; jumping off an unreasonably high wall without finding what is on the other side first, and using an oven tray as a sledge.

Far from being impressed, the other family’s children went pale as we recalled these events. I fear they won’t want to come on holiday with us again.... - Daily Mail

* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine.

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