I left home at 16, which probably seems quite young to a lot of people but bear in mind that was 12 whole years ago and things were a fair bit different back then, besides at 16 I just felt it was the right time to fly the coop so to speak.
I really enjoyed my time living alone. I met the husband shortly after that and it wasn't too long before we moved in together, but I really do remember my days living alone fondly.
When I think back on my life I realise that I left home so early because of my mum.
Just to clarify my mum wasn't overbearing or abusive, she didn't ignore me or my needs. In fact, she was a fantastic mum and I've never once wished that she had done anything differently when she raised us and while I did leave because of her (or maybe because of how she raised me) I certainly never left to get away from her.
My dad left when I was quite young (old enough to remember him, but still at 3, I was still young) and although he left my mum as a young single mother (20 at the time with two kids) she was by no means alone. We come from a large family and she had a great support structure during that time.
However, my brother and I were raised a little differently to other kids our age.
A bit of history might help here. My mum's mother passed away when my mum was 12 and the oldest of 6 kids, two sisters and three brothers. My uncle, Samuel, was only 3 at the time and the baby of the family. When my grandmother died, my grandfather was left to raise six kids on his own. Now we're talking over 30 years now and a lot of dads back then were not as "hands on" as dads are today, so he was pretty much chucked in at the deep end of parenthood. All of a sudden he wasn't simply the bread winner. At the time he took some leave from work to get things sorted out and quickly realised that they would never survive if he were to come out of work. The options given to him were to separate his children up amongst any willing family, go back to work and pay for their needs or the children would be taken from him for an undetermined period of time until he was able to sort out an alternative.
He refused both options, convinced that he could come up with a way to return to work and arrange care for his children. At first he tried organising for different family members and friends to look after the kids while he was at work, but after a short period of time my mum took on the role of House Mother at the age of 12. Because of the way my mum was raised by her mother she now had the idea that women took care of the men, so the three girls basically took care of the entire house, while the boys got something of an easy ride.
She doesn't remember those days fondly, but when it came to raising my brother and I the same values crept in.
I was brought up to be extremely independent, almost to a fault, whereas my brother was lifted and laid. Again to clarify, my mum openly admits that she raised us differently, partly because of the boy/girl thing and partly because I was older.
I then found myself in the same position as mum had all those year ago, except I was 8 at the time. My brother was only five and my mum had to go to work, it was as simple as that, so I was left as House Mother.
I would get myself and my brother up, dressed, fed and off to school every morning. I was a true latchkey kid, by that I mean I wen to school wearing a necklace with my front door key hanging from it and arrived home everyday with my brother to an empty house, my mum wouldn't arrive home for another two or three hours after us. We would eat, I would do my own homework and check my brother's before making dinner. In my brother's second year of primary school he joined the after school football club which left me with about 90 minutes to myself before collecting him from school and while most kids at the age of 9 would have relished the time to just do nothing instead I went and looked for a job. I managed to get a paper round close to the primary school and once I was paid I started to pay my brother pocket money to do small jobs around the house like the dishes or taking rubbish out to the bin.
Now before anyone starts to think "oh poor Leanne", I don't' remember those days being hard. I got a job of my own free will without any help or encouragement from anyone, in fact it was a month or so before I even told my mum I had it. I was always brought up to believe that helping family should always come first so everything I did just came naturally to me. I never wanted or expected any praise or thanks for doing it. It was simply something that needed to be done by someone in order for our little family to survive and it might as well have been me.
I did grow up very independent though. I insist of doing almost everything myself. Its the reason I do a lot of the repairs around the home, all the outdoor work in the gardens along with all the housework. It isn't a matter of survival anymore, but these things all still need to be done by someone and it might as well be me.
I know in my own heart (although I almost never think about it) that if for some reason Toots and I were left alone, we'd be just fine. We'd manage on our own.
Already I'm noticing these traits in Toots. She's fiercely independent for a 4 year old. Each morning she makes her own breakfast, chooses her own clothes and 9 time out of ten she keeps an ear out for her dad in the morning and makes breakfast for him too. I watch her every day, walking alone a few steps ahead of me, she refuses to hold hands, "only babies hold hands", her words not mine.
Because of the way I was raised I am very proud of her independence. I want to embrace and even encourage it.
I want her to believe that her own two feet can be the steadiest place she will ever stand and know without being told that every step she takes in life will be the right one for her as long as its her choice and she takes the step herself rather than merely following along with someone else. She can only be led astray if she allows herself to be led.
However, the husband sees my independence and to some extent her independence a little differently. He thinks that too much independence can be a bad thing and that it could effectively make the people in her life feel like she doesn't trust them enough to allow them to help or guide her.
I've tried to explain that ideally what I would like is for Toots to grow up strong and independent, to always know her own mind and feel secure enough with herself to back away from or argue down a bad idea. There's nothing wrong with being a little reliant on others occasionally and I don't think she needs to spend her life alone to be independent. I certainly don't.
So what do you think? Can too much independence be a bad thing?