As I drove Joshua to Riding for the Disabled last night, the first session since the summer break, I started to think how little opportunity in life he has to choose how he spends his free time. We have entertained him with activities throughout the summer holidays that we think that he will enjoy, but he never gets to choose, that decision is taken on his behalf. His only recourse for action then is to object, or otherwise, when he gets wherever he is taken and certainly there have been plenty of occasions when he votes with his feet.
Yesterday, my husband took Joshua for a day out to meet up with his sister and Joshua’s two cousins and they met for lunch – which would always meet with his approval and apparently he tucked away a large portion of fish and chips – and then they went to an indoor play area for his cousins to climb and run around. Joshua sat watching with the adults, as he could not access the activities. Joshua has always been a great observer, but who knows what was going through his head : was he sad that he could not play like his cousins? was he happy to watch all the fun and games from the sidelines? was he bored by just watching? The reality is that he did not object, so we have to presume that he was happy enough to be there.
Then he got home and he was happy to curl up on the settee and watch Robbie Williams on his Live8 Show, but instead he was messed about with again as I swapped his shoes and put him into long trousers as he was booked in to go horse riding with RDA. So I persuaded him off the settee, and got him into the car, where he was very sleepy during the 20 minute drive to the stables. This is when I was pondering if I was doing the right thing…..
When we arrived at the stables, he sat in the car waiting for his turn and whenever I opened the passenger door, he closed it again, laughing. It was fairly clear signal of his preference. But Mum knows best, so I helped him out of the car when Digby became free and Joshua walked up the ramp happily enough and mounted the horse. He then enjoyed a half hour session, waving, pointing and flashing his tummy at me each time he walked passed and nobody would suspect his initial reluctance, as he was fully engaged in the activity.
So my dilemma is this, did I do the right thing to overrule him? My concern is that if I allowed Joshua to choose how to spend his free time, he would be on the settee watching Shrek 2 or Robbie Williams on loop! Instead, he came back to that as soon as he got home from riding. Was horse-riding in his best interests or were we going because I enjoy it and think he should? As Joshua’s parent, I make a lot of decisions for him that other 17 year olds, and younger than that, would make themselves – what to eat, what to wear, what to do…. Now that he is more vocal, perhaps I should consult him more and allow him to make more of his own choices in life, and see what happens. But one thing that he has no choice over is the fact that he goes back to school tomorrow!