ZELLA COMPTON: Let children find their own way in life '“ when they are ready

A parent in Canada '“ Vancouver '“ is in trouble with the authorities for sending his children (ages seven to 11) to school on the bus unaccompanied.

Tuesday, 3rd October 2017, 9:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 10:46 am
At what age should children be allowed to travel to school without an adult?

He’s been training them for a while and, equipped with GPS and I suspect a list of instructions, they were sent to travel across the city to their school, a distance of 13km.

Apparently this led to a complaint from another passenger about unaccompanied children and now the provincial government is involved, saying that children under the age of 10 shouldn’t be left unsupervised in the community, at home or on public transport.

It’s raising all sorts of questions in Canada about government intervention in parenting, parenting in general and sweeping generalisations of ages – such as when we judge our children being capable of doing X,Y and Z. Sex, drinking, driving, catching a bus, having a doctor’s appointment without a parent. The list could go on and on.

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This parent has been left though, according to The Guardian, in the position of not being able to put the rubbish out by himself. He lives in a flat, on the 30th floor, so technically he can’t even take the rubbish to the bins in the basement without taking all but one of his four children with him. This is madness.

I am a firm believer that children should be allowed even encouraged, to be alone, to take responsibility.

To walk to the shop, to find what’s needed, to buy it and interact with strange adults (not strange as in odd, but adults who are not in the family or education system – and of course the levels of strangeness mentioned are not mutually exclusive.

I think it’s vital that children should use public transport on their own, be able to navigate themselves from A to B and back again. But at what age? That’s up to the parent.

Parents know their own children, what they can cope with, what scares them, what challenges them and whether they’re likely to make it back alive.

My three children are all very different people, and have achieved these major victories of independence at different points of their lives, when they were ready, not when some arbitrary timescale was put upon them by a governing body.

I feel for the father, the children, and yes, a little bit for the bus passenger who acted out of concern and has now sparked a national debate, in which they will be vilified by some, and rejoiced by others.

But, we must let our children find their way literally and figuratively, when they are ready.


When the main phone line rings now I feel that unutterable dread, that it’s a sales call.

I’ve realised that over the years the only people who now use the landline are relatives from abroad, my parents (who switch to calling my mobile within three rings, sending me running around the house) and a long list of companies who somehow have scraped the internet and found my number – and insist on calling it again and again.

I don’t know what I once put my number into that gives the kitchen and window repair specialists such a need to call me, but surely this model of business must be nearly obsolete?

Who in their right mind would say ‘yes’ to a call from one of these businesses?

Isn’t it time to stop cold calling?


I was lucky enough last week to attend a talk/performance given by Dean Atta, an incredible poet, via Portsmouth Writers Hub (which is an excellent organisation for budding writers).

I wouldn’t have written so positively about a poet a few years back, but I am finding as I mellow into my forties and find poetry that’s less about scenery and more about the politics of life, that poets have a unique, succinct and accessible art form in which to share their views.

Thus I was quite excited to receive an e-mail asking me to take part in Tongues and Grooves’ inaugural prose poetry contest (deadline January 1, 2018).

This is open to everyone, with a small entrance fee, and tidy winnings.