"Mama, I can go home on my own."

Posted by ~Summer~ on October 12, 2020

These were the words the big girl said to me when she was eight years old.

We had moved into A Happy Home, she had just turned eight and barely started in her new Primary school. It was merely a couple of days of walking her to the new school when she told me "Mama, actually I think I can go home on my own. You don't have to bring Meimei and Didi to fetch me, you can wait for me at home."

And that was how it all began. 


To be fair, actually, she had already started coming home herself when she was taking the school bus home in Primary 2. But since the bus would drop her at our place and she only had to cross the carpark to take the lift up, I wouldn't consider that as returning home on her own, right? It was probably a good start though, for her to learn to watch out for oncoming traffic even in carparks and be brave enough to take the lift up on her own or with strangers.

I taught her and kept reminding her incessantly on how to look out for danger, how she must always wait for cars to stop before crossing the road, how she should raise her hand while crossing since she is so petite, how she needs to stay alert and look in front and around her, how she should be polite yet extra cautious if anyone talks to her. I was always a little worried when she told me how people, including strangers, fellow parents, neighbours and delivery men, would ask her how old she was and if she was alone. Thankfully, till now, this has all been done with good intention or just plain curiosity and it was usually because she looked really young and many assumed that she wasn't on her own.

I can't even tell you how much of a relief it was for me when she was able to walk home by herself. It warmed my heart even more knowing that she was the one who offered to do so in order to lessen my burden. At that time, the little sister was in kindergarten and her school started later at 8am, dismissed at 11:30am and was situated in the opposite direction from the firstborn's primary school. Not to mention I had another toddler to take care of at that time and it was simply a hassle to have to bring the whole village out under the hot sun just to fetch the big girl from school every afternoon.

Was I worried? You bet I was, at least initially. I would constantly keep my eyes on the clock even while busying with the chores and made sure she arrived home when she was supposed to. While the route back home was fairly straightforward, it still consisted of two zebra crossings, one small pedestrian crossing and one big crossroad - which was the one that I worried about most as we had witnessed accidents there before. Soon, she proved to me that she was more than capable of doing it herself and coming home safely. 

And slowly but surely, as a mum, I learnt to let go.


You know how our upbringing determines to a certain extent what kind of parents we are, right? When it comes to going home from school, the hubby and I had totally different experiences when we were kids.

I was the one who started coming home from school from Primary 1 on my own. On many days, my mum would not be around and I would be home alone. I had to buy back my own lunch, eat on my own and do my own homework while waiting for the rest of my family to return. Yup, now you understand better why I am so fiercely independent as a SAHM and why I insist on bringing my kids up with no help. As for the hubby, he was chauffeured to school, had his breakfast prepared for him every day and even up till university, he said his parents still insisted on fetching him to school even though he tried to reject. Of course, while our experiences differed greatly, it only meant that our parents loved us in different ways.

Now that I'm the one holding the fort at home while the hubby battles at sea, it only means that I get to make most of the decisions when it comes to the kids since I'm the primary caretaker. Haha. So when I told the hubby I was going to let our girls come home on their own, he had his own doubts and worries but the good thing was he didn't object but was willing to let us try. Eventually, he became proud of their independence though he would still try to send or pick them from school whenever he was around.  


This topic of letting kids go home on their own has always been a debatable one and I've had discussions with friends and fellow parents about it too. On one hand, I know of parents who let their kids take public transport to school starting from lower primary, which I thought was pretty bold and I dare not do that yet when it comes to my kids. If not for a rather straightforward walking route to school, I would probably have held back till they were at least Primary 5 or 6 before letting them come home themselves.

On the other hand, there are also parents and grandparents who are absolutely against the idea of letting primary schoolers go home on their own, no matter how near or far the school is. Even if it is just a stone's throw away with no road crossing, they still insist on picking them up every single day just to be safe. Of course, this is totally understandable too.

So I had a friend who was totally shocked when I told her my girls started walking home on their own starting in Primary 2. She told me "What if there are bad guys? What if they get kidnapped? What if they get into accidents?" To which, I replied "But I did it as a kid too. I just have to make sure they are ready before I let them try and keep reminding them to be careful." Then, she said "Times are different. Our generation is different from theirs and the roads are more dangerous now."

That made me ponder and in my heart, while I agreed that times have changed, I don't think that roads are more dangerous now than they were 30 years ago. The biggest thing that has changed, to me, is parenting mindset. How our parents brought us up in those days and how kids are brought up nowadays, I see the change and pardon me when I say I don't think it is always for the better.

So which camp of thought do you belong to or are you somewhere in between? 

I have to say no matter when you decide to let your child go home on his/her own, be it early or late in their years, the criticism will always come, be it from friends, extended family members or even concerned passers-by. I've had my fair share of it and my advice is not to let it bother you. Focus on communicating with your child and once things start to fall into a routine and everything works out well, nothing else really matters other than your child's safety.


I believe in practice makes perfect and I also saw how my girls built up confidence over the days, weeks and months.

At first, I would still go downstairs to the nearest traffic junction so I could spy on them from afar. I was in fact more worried about the sisters getting into catfights or silly bickers on the road when they were dismissed together, despite my instructions for them to protect and care for each other. That did happen once or twice when they argued - on the pavement luckily, not on the road - and obviously, they got a scolding from me afterwards. But other than those rare occasions, they have been really good and loving, holding hands, sharing an umbrella and looking out for each other.

With the elder sister in Primary 5 now, she has to stay back a few days a week in the afternoon for her higher mother tongue, supplementary classes and Captain's training. Thus, the little sister who is in Primary 2 now has also learnt to walk home on her own since the start of the year. She is even more petite than her Jiejie and being the secondborn, she is more carefree, active and a little less cautious - which made me worry for her more than the eldest. 

But I think it's about letting go and letting them try, believing in them while never forgetting to nag at them. Haha. Every morning when I kiss them goodbye, I would always say "Later you come yourself, okay? Don't forget to watch out for traffic and stay safe on the road." Yup, so far, they have done really well and I believe with all the practice and confidence gained so far, the big girl is all ready to take the bus to and from secondary school herself in 15 months' time while the little sister is all set to bring her brother to and from school when he goes to Primary 1.


It's always important for parents to be role models for our kids. We have a duty to educate our kids on road safety, which is why I make sure we never jaywalk when we are out. We also stop before every zebra crossing, we don't dash across the road when the countdown timer has less than 10 seconds left, we don't chit chat when crossing the road and we always hold hands so we can look out for one another.

The good thing for us is that since I don't drive and we love to go outdoor, the kids grew up being accustomed to taking public transport and walking long distances on the road. That gives them a sense of familiarity and a head start when it comes to going home on their own.

Having more than one child is also beneficial in the sense that my eldest serves as an example for the rest. For instance, the little brother always asks me nowadays "Is Da Jie staying back today? She will come home herself, right?" I am hoping that her independence will rub off on the little brother even though he is still a clingy little one who might take longer to train and be brave enough to try. That brings me to an important point - EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. So don't compare even amongst siblings, don't compare them with their friends, don't use anyone else as a yardstick but work on developing your child's uniqueness and wait till he/she is ready.


Many people have asked me but the thing is I don't exactly have an answer for that. To me, it boils down to consideration of various factors and what works for one family might not work for the other. These are some things you definitely have to take into account:

1) The route 

Is it a walking route or does your child have to take the bus/train? If public transport is required, I would wait till my child is mature enough, say P5 or P6 onwards before letting him/her try. If it is a walking route, how far is it? Is it a long, winding route and are there many pedestrian crossings? Does he/she have to go through void decks, carparks or any deserted places? All this will matter and while I am comfortable with letting my kids walk home from P2 if the route is direct, I will likely wait till P3 or P4 if it is a less straightforward one.

2) Your child's readiness

While I would encourage my child to try, I would not definitely not coerce if she has voiced out that she is not ready yet. In fact, as a mum, I think it's not hard to tell when my child is ready to move on to something new and when he might still need me to be by his side. Every child develops at a different pace and there is no shame in letting one child go home at P4 level, another at Sec 1 or the last at P2. It's about whether he/she is ready to take on the challenge or not and whether he/she is independent, responsible, alert and cautious of the surroundings by that time.

3) Your willingness to let go

There are also cases whereby the child earnestly yearns for some trust and independence and longs to try, but the parent says "No." It might not always be a case of helicopter parenting and might simply be due to love, care and a desire to protect our young. Whichever the case, I think having an open discussion with the child will help and perhaps you can set some rules, make a plan and start from small. For instance, if the route from school back home is too complicated, how about meeting the child halfway? If you are worried about the road junctions, why not let him/her try a smaller and less busy pedestrian crossing while you watch from the other side of the road? It's all about compromising, striking a balance and making small progress till we all get there together someday.

Regardless of how much we wish to hold onto them while they are young, the truth is someday we just have to let go because that is how our kids can then learn to soar on their own.

So, what's your take on this topic? Like I said, I strongly believe it is always a personal choice and there is no right or wrong no matter what you eventually decide. You are the best person to determine what works for you and your child so just listen to your heart and you will find the answer you need.



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