Walking into maturity ... alone

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
BEING a father is rather like driving a car round the quayside in Amsterdam.

No, I don't mean one is continually distracted by scantily clad women sitting up in shop windows. What I'm referring to is the fact that, however straight forwardly things seem to be going, sooner or later there's always another bridge to cross. This week it's been The Walk Into School.

Walking, per se, is an unpopular activity among my three. Sarah has long campaigned against the indignity of it. Walking is for nerds. Walking is about as cool as wearing your grandmother's hand-knitted cardigan to a disco. Walking is "Really pedestrian, Dad." But even worse than arriving at school on foot is the total embarrassment of doing so in the company of a parent.

Every year for the past three Sarah has been releasing me earlier and earlier from my escort duty. These days I only just get her across the main road before she starts hissing "Go away!" as if I'm some troublesome pervert.

Now however Sarah has announced that from September she's going to do the entire half-mile unaided.

Personally I blame St Jude's. Ever since SATs they've been preparing Year 6 for life at senior school. Fiery Aneurin Molotov regularly lectures his class about growing up. Not the delicate business of bodily changes, more the fact that "you'll damn well have to when you get to The Comp!".

Of course most of this has gone right over Sarah's head but one thing she has decided is that from next term the mark of a mature person will be to leave our house unaccompanied at 8.30 and return in similar fashion at 4pm. A mature person will not even be seen over the pelican crossing.

This has been a very difficult one for Sarah's parents. At her age I travelled three miles daily on my own but that was a less anxious era. "Would you ring us from the call box once you get across the main road?" my wife asked plaintively. Sarah looked to high heaven. "What if we got you a mobile, poppet?" "What if Dad took you in the car?" I blinked aghast but it was too late.

It seems that mature people can be taken anywhere as long as they're sitting in a car. And I have a horrible feeling it won't be long before Tom and Ginny also cotton on to the advantages of maturity.

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