Opinion & Debate

Published on March 16th, 2015 | by Kelly Rose Bradford


When I was 12…

My son turned 12 last week.

This got me thinking about how different our lives are. I can clearly remember being 12. It seemed an exciting age: the last year before becoming a teenager and all the promise that entailed (or so my magazines would suggest).

I was raised in a very traditional (read: old-fashioned) household, where my mum was a housewife and my dad went out to work. We had our dinner at the same time every day (5.40  – the meal put on the table as my dad’s key turned in the front door). Shopping and washing were done on certain days. Housework was done first thing in the morning, every morning.

But in our house, because it’s only us two and I work, we tend to go with the flow.  The rigidity and routine of my childhood just isn’t there. If I don’t feel like cooking because I’m too tired from work, we eat out. Housework gets done as and when. The washing machine is on every day (often twice a day). Shopping is done when we need it.

There are lots of other differences in our lives too – the amount of freedom I had for example, even though, at the time I thought I was totally hemmed in by my parents. My son has none of that. And oddly, he shows no signs of wanting it, either.

When I was 12…

  • I was using buses and Tubes to go into town with my friend of the same age

  • I had been walking to and from school alone for around three years

  • I was expected to run local shopping errands for my mum

  • I’d cycle for miles on my own

  • I’d visit relatives independently, just turning up on their doorsteps

My son has never taken a bus or train on his own, has never walked to or from school unattended, or been out on his bike on his own. There is no way he would just turn up a relative’s house unannounced and having made his own way there (unless something terrible had happened!) and it would never cross my mind to send him out for milk or teabags if I suddenly ran out of them.

My son’s life – and that of his friends – is very much home-based. I have an open-door policy for pals, and they are welcome any time, whereas I was not really allowed friends round for tea, and definitely not for sleepovers. I also spend a lot of time taking my son to his friends’ houses or to parties – my parents didn’t give me lifts anywhere – if I was invited to a party, it would be up to me to cycle or get the bus there!

The weekends my son is with me are largely based around his commitments; tennis on Saturdays, sometimes school sports’ fixtures or drama rehearsals. When I was a child there was absolutely no way my parents’ weekend time would be spent playing chauffeur or sitting around sports’ halls while I attended my clubs or extra school activities! Although to be fair,  such things just didn’t seem to happen ‘back then’. My Saturdays were spent out on my bike, cycling round to pals’ houses, then biking or bussing to the shopping centre where we’d spend the day trying on clothes we couldn’t afford or just ‘hanging out’. Sundays were the most boring day of the week with nothing open and the whole day scheduled around a huge roast dinner and the visiting of relatives (until I got wise enough to use ‘I’ve got homework’ as an excuse not to go…)

Of course, all these innocent pleasures were before we turned 14 and discovered that two litre bottles of beer could be illegally purchased from the corner shop and sneakily drunk in the local graveyard. Which makes me very grateful that my son and his friends are such apparent homebodies. Long may it continue…

How does your child’s life differ from yours at that age? Let us know! 

About the Author

Kelly Rose Bradford

is a London-based journalist and broadcaster, writing for the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Sunday Telegraph, and a host of women's magazines. Her robust opinions and feisty debating skills make her in demand as a social commentator, regularly guesting on ITV's This Morning programme, and across many radio stations, including 5 Live and BBC Radio London.

One Response to When I was 12…

  1. kirsty says:

    my kids dont do any of the things i did at their age. i was out on my own all time but they just play at home with their mates. i think internet made things different, but they;ll probably want to be out when they are older. 11 and 13 now and happy to be indoors. i couldnt wait to get out and away from mum and dad at that age!

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