With the Australian school year having just begun, many parents will have that often emotional experience of letting go of their child fresh in their minds. For many, letting go of your child’s hand as he or she starts kindergarten, prep or even the first year of high school can be heart-wrenching, to say the least. Watching as your precious child leaves the safe haven of your arms to enter the big battle-ground of the school-yard can almost break your heart! I remember sitting in a crowd of preppie parents when my oldest daughter started school, feeling every second of her rather disgruntled expression and hoping beyond hope that she would have a good day, make friends straight away and be happy.
The term ‘helicopter parent’ has recently made headlines, with researchers arguing that many parents now do too much for their children, hovering around them and not allowing them the freedom to fight their own battles. Andrew fuller advises parents to be careful not to do this, because one day your child may need to stand on their own two feet. Many parenting experts advise that it is wise to let your child do what he or she is capable of as much as possible and be brave enough to allow them a certain amount of freedom, including the freedom to learn from their own mistakes. In my short story, ‘Excess Baggage’, Tamara finds herself in a dilemma at the train station, where her two girls, in that tricky stage of pre-adolescence, are required to travel to Sydney in a bus while she takes the train. It is an unavoidable and confusing situation and the emotions involved cause Tamara to reflect on her experiences as a mother. I hope you enjoy the story.
Excerpt from ‘Excess Baggage’ by Sue Oaks
‘The girls, Bec and Sam, were nine and ten. Were they old enough to go by themselves? What if the bus arrived first and they were stranded alone in Sydney? Tamara glanced at the other travelers who were giving last quick embraces or standing on the platform ready to wave goodbye. The train’s engine started with a noisy shiver and the conductor tapped his foot, looking behind him and at his watch.
‘Oh, okay then’, she sighed, giving the girls a quick kiss. ‘I’ll see you at Sydney. Be good, okay?’
‘Of course’. Then they were gone. It was only a second before they disappeared in the crowd.
Tamara stepped on the train. The girls’ bags were quite heavy, she’d stuffed them with extras before they left; shoes, socks, school reports. Pushing the bags into the overhead compartment was a trial and other passengers were squeezing past awkwardly. She breathed out apologies and sat down. In the sudden lack of busyness, her mind filled with new concerns. What if the conductor takes them to some hidden corner and…What if they get lost? What if they sit next to some sleazebag who…She tried to push the thoughts away but they only became more vivid.
This trip would be the longest she’d been away from the girls. She’d never left them with Byron, never taken a week off. Friends used to tell her to go on a holiday, come away with them and spend some time having fun. Get to know herself again. She’d let herself go, they said, entered the gates of motherhood and never returned. But she hated the thought of not being there, not being available when they needed her, so she didn’t listen.