05 June, 2013

Parenting: always letting go

Last week on Monday we released our eldest son to make another step towards adulthood. He went to his wrestling club on his own. As I wrote here, it is a 45 minute journey involving two trains and one of the busiest train stations in the world.

This is a journey of about 22 km.
We enjoy considerable freedom here in Japan, especially in respect to safety and allowing the kids to get themselves around. I wrote a bit about that here.

Even though this is a relatively safe journey, it was still a big step to take, letting him do this (before we did, we accompanied him on the journey with him four times prior to letting him go it alone). And I have to admit I felt a bit shaky.

His biggest concern was managing the language at wrestling. My biggest concern was disaster planning.

One of the concerns with earthquakes is that they disrupt the train system. So if you rely on the trains to get home, and they stop on you, you're in a little bit of a bother, especially if you're a 14 year old foreigner without much Japanese and less idea of Tokyo's geography.

One of the weird images from the March 11 earthquake was rivers of people walking along train lines that night to get home. We heard stories of people walking many kilometres home in business shoes, or other people borrowing bikes to ride across Tokyo. And that was without major damage in the city.

The other thing that happened that afternoon/night was a serious disruption of mobile phone service. The internet worked fine, but phones took a while to get up and running again. I'm not sure why, perhaps they were overwhelmed with the number of people using the system?

First line of defence in a tricky situation would be for our son to call us, but if that isn't working and neither are the trains, it is tricky.

You might think this seems a bit extreme, but these are the sorts of things you must think about when you live in an earthquake prone country.

So, what have we done to plan for this possible eventuality?

We've photocopied the pages of our road map (which is all in Japanese), and added some English to help him out. If necessary, he could use this to walk home.I hope and pray that it won't ever be necessary, but there are no guarantees in this life.

As for our son's concern about language, his CAJ coach laughed off that concern saying, "The coach is a nice guy." And it's true. Not to mention, if we don't tip him into the deep end sometime, he'll never learn much of the language at all.

So, it's a continuation of the theme of parenting: teach and release. Constantly preparing them for the day when they'll need to function as independent adults.

1 comment:

Ken Rolph said...

When our son was in year 10 he did work experience with an architect who had an office on the other side of Sydney. The train trip was fairly straightforward, but long. It was his first long trip on a train.

That afternoon a train broke down on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can imagine the gridlock. He didn't get home until after 8 pm. That was his introduction to the rail system.