My son's end of Year 6 trip was to see The Lion King in London's West End. Going up to London is always a treat from our south coast city. However, we agreed for him to go before the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London! Over half-term, indeed after last Saturday's London Bridge attacks, our school Facebook group flooded with posts entitled "What do people think about the school trip to London?" and "Should I let my child go?" I read that a school that my friend's children attend in Cornwall had posted a Facebook update saying they were having emergency meetings about their own school trip this week with the Local Authority and governors. We heard nothing from our school.
I had a text from the mum of Ben's school bestie. She wasn't keen on him going, I don't think, but wanted to know if Ben was going. I replied that he was. We'd talked about it, he wanted to go. However when I mentioned his bestie possibly wasn't, he changed his mind. He then said he was scared of the terrorists. What could I do? This was two days before the trip. Annoyingly, as I hadn't yet paid for it, I went into the school office and paid for it knowing he probably wouldn't go! But I was stuck - I couldn't force him. I was pretty sure it was because of his mate, but he would just say it was because he was scared. What to do? A school dad said to make him go. I couldn't do that! Imagine if anything had happened, how would I feel? My own dad said he wanted him to go, and that he should, but we were stuck. I came up with the plan of asking him to pay half of the amount, just to see how that made him feel. I only felt worse reading of the possible terror attack in Paris last night.
He came home from school on the first Monday back, saying they'd had a chat in class. His teacher told the class her brother worked behind the scenes in London with the police when attacks happen, and that in his opinion, it was one of the safest places to go at this time. This was reassuring to hear, not that he felt it was safe, but that it almost put a human person in a helping role that is unknown to most of us. I think the children felt reassured. Ben came home from school, heard I'd paid, and said that he wanted to go. In fact, after their chat, he had told the teacher, "Screw ISIS" - to which she replied, "Exactly that, but with better language"! Job done. We were extremely happy with his decision, and it was his decision after all.
The sad thing was that many children who had decided not to go, or whose parents didn't want them to go, were being made to feel bad for this. Some mothers reported on Facebook that they were told they'd have to do loads of work at school, or that London was safe and there wouldn't be an attack! How can you say this? In no way can you say this! No one should be made to feel bad because of a decision they take. They have their children's best interests at heart, and no one could blame anyone for doing what they feel is right.
So I dropped him off near school today. He wanted to go to the shop to buy sweets for the journey with the pound I'd given him. He kissed me goodbye and sauntered off down the road. I watched him for longer than I normally do, all sorts of thoughts rushing through my mind.
At school while I was teaching, his school phoned - I jumped out of my skin! It was just the receptionist asking a question. I told my class I was keeping my phone on just in case they wanted to contact me. They did - we had a nice text when the school coaches left. And another when they reached the theatre. I'm currently waiting for one saying they are leaving London.
I know we did the right thing for us as a family. I know that every parent did the right thing for their family, whatever their decision. I just never thought I'd have to face this. I can't imagine how the parents and families of those who have died in attacks must feel. They too waved their children off before what was supposed to be a fun, exciting thing to do. We all say, "We can't let them win," but when it comes down to it, how would we feel if it happened to us. This was, without a doubt, the hardest decision I've ever had to make as a mum.
Added just now - after a Facebook comment from a friend who said she's more worried about her children's safety than her own. I went up to London this past weekend to see Depeche Mode and when we left the London Stadium after the event, as word got round the 80,000 of us walking out, about the attacks, we were full of it - We won't let them win, Screw them etc. Gallows humour, we are British etc. It wasn't just the copious pints of Pimms I'd imbibed, I really felt invincible leaving the gig. I too am more worried about my son's safety than my own. I know exactly what she means.