01/02/2012 06:59 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

The Semi-Detached Parent: Letting Go

Letting go - is it more difficult for single parents? PA

A friend has started to allow her little boy to go to school on his own. He is just nine, and, admittedly, she watches him from their gate as he walks to the top of the road where he meets his friends and a few other parents escorting younger children, and then, as a group they cross at the pedestrian crossing, and then have a two minute walk down a pathway to their school.

Sounds perfectly safe and well supervised, yes? Maybe, but I was horrified, even though I walked to and from school alone - crossing a busy road - at the same age.

The thought of allowing my son anywhere on his own is just stomach-churningly worrying. He has never played out in the street alone, and I even get anxious if I have to send him out to collect something from the car unsupervised, or take a neighbour's post round. This, my friend asserts is because I am on my own with an only child, have all my eggs in one basket, and therefore mollycoddle and over-protect.


Obviously this was delivered in a laced-with-giggles-mock-condescending fashion, but I sense she does to a certain extent believe it, and to her, single parents fall into two camps, and two camps only: those who mollycoddle (me) and those who allow their kids to run feral, toddling down the dual-carriageway wearing nothing but a nappy from the age of two.

"Anyway," my friend added, "By letting him walk to school, he thinks he is getting loads of freedom - the reality is, I am watching him all the way. It's a big deal to him, but really is no different to when I was going with him trailing a few feet behind."

"You've got to untie those aprons strings sometime," she smirked as her parting shot. OK, so she WAS trying to wind me up, but it did have me thinking all evening.

No matter how over protective I might be towards my little boy - not allowing him to walk to school at eight (for goodness sake - who would? We do live three miles from our school, btw) or play in the street (we live on a busy, narrow road which boy-racers use as a cut through) - obviously I can only uphold this protection on my watch.

When my son is at his dad's house, who knows what decisions his father might take or choices he might make? For all I know, he might decide next summer our son can play out alone on the green near his home, or ride his bike to school from his house (it is near by). And I will have no control over it. All the while, I would be at home, chewing my nails down to my elbows and wishing fervently that the only 'letting go' I had to do was the same as my friend - a five minute journey I could monitor from my front gate...

Is it harder to 'let go' when you are a single parent? Or is it just the start of another battle to be had with your ex over how much independence your child is allowed?