It was pretty busy, but I let Flea run pretty free at the zoo – after all, they keep most of the animals that eat children in cages these days. But I caught one mother giving me a pointed look as she chastised her own pre-schooler for not holding her hand. “Don’t you know how many bad people there are here who could hurt you?”
Oh dear. This isn't quite the approach I take to personal safety with Flea. Of course, we're not anarchists. We do have some special “outdoor” rules in our house. They apply any time we’re outside, except if we’re near a road or car park. They are:
Rule 1: Wherever you are, you have to be able to see Mummy.
Rule 2: There are no other rules.
Yes, I admit it: I’m a believer in controlled risk. This is a fancy way of saying I think it’s important that Flea gets skinned knees once in a while or even walks into a lamp post because she’s too busy looking for sea lions (unfortunate, but so funny).
Controlled risk is how I shocked an Other Mother at the church family fun day this summer when I watched Flea roll down a small slope of grass onto the driveway. "What if she bangs her head?" said the Other Mother, in horror. "Erm, it'll hurt?" I replied.
By allowing Flea the freedom to explore situations, I figure she has a better chance of making good choices when she finds herself in a situation where Mummy isn't to hand.
Also, if you’re not constantly holding hands with a child, it makes it much easier to whistle innocently and pretend you aren’t with them when they shout, “MUMMY LOOK AT THESE WINDOWS ON THE MONKEY CAGE, THEY’RE EVEN GRUBBIER THAN THE ONES ON OUR CAR!”