yesterday I was stopped by a very small person pedalling a very small tricycle at the point where two paths cross.
He brought his very small vehicle to a careful halt and looked at me with a delighted expression. I looked for a parent and found his mother hurrying up behind. She gave me a nod and said,
"That's fine. He knows he has to stop there."
I nodded and pedalled on.
Much later I was talking to a mother who is having trouble getting her two children to sleep at night. They are both at school now but this has been a problem for a long time. Both children are supposed to be "hyper-active". Both of them are supposed to have "attention" problems. They are supposed to have "allergies" - although just what they are allergic to has not yet been ascertained.
The two children are in both before school and after school care because both parents work full time in high pressure jobs. There are no relatives to care for the children. At school holiday time they are placed in "vacation programmes" at school.
Neither child had a tricycle and they do not have bicycles now, nor do they have skateboards or scooters or any other like article.Their parents consider these thngs are "too dangerous" bcause the children are also supposed to be "clumsy".
Their mother was almost in tears. It was "so disappointing the children have turned out this way". Their doctor has prescribed medication but it does not seem to have helped much. She outlined a range of other problems (which sounded like well known side-effects of the medication). They go to a special class on Saturdays which is designed to remediate "clumsiness" and they have exercises to do in between. Other measures are being taken. They are considering tutoring because the children are "not performing well in school".
I asked her what they did in their free time at home. She looked rather puzzled by this question. They didn't, she told me, really have any free time because, "we're hardly ever there you know".
I am sure their mother thought I was going to come up with some sort of miracle suggestions that would solve her problems. I was a last resort. Everything else had failed. They are spending so much money and the children have so many problems.
While we were talking her two children were running around our front lawn. It is not a very big lawn. She wanted to stop them doing that.
I told her not to stop them. They were fine. They were being children. They needed to run.
She was worried they might fall over and hurt themselves and that our neighbours might think they were out of control.
I told her that all children fall over and hurt themselves on occasion and that the neighbours had children who tear up and down the street on tricycles and bicycles.
Indeed, as we watched the eldest child from next door - a six year old - came out on his bicycle and started doing some acrobatics in his driveway. He fell off a couple of times but just got back on again. The mother I was talking to looked absolutely horrified.
"I would never let my children do that!"
"They might hurt themselves. It's terribly irresponsible to allow children to do that sort of thing."
"I think, you will find all the parents in this street allow their children to do those sort of things."
In the end I advised her to buy two skipping ropes and a frisbee. I told her that the children were to have at least a half an hour of vigorous outdoor exercise every day. They were also to be read a chapter of a book before going to sleep. I would give her a list of likely books.
She protested but I said firmly, "I can promise you if you really do that then the children will improve."
Her husband phoned later. She had complained bitterly to him about the advice she had been given. I thought I was in for a lecture about giving unwanted advice but he said,
"You could be right. (She) doesn't like the idea but it might be an idea just to tire them out. "
Well, it's a start.