AFTER dropping her teenage children at the station, Kathleen Marshall used to hover in the background until the train arrived. “Things” had happened at that station, and she wanted to make sure they boarded safely. “When my son caught me at it,” she recalls, “he said, ‘Mum, who do you think’s at greater risk – a six-foot-two 19-year-old on a brightly-lit station platform, or a middle-aged woman lurking in the shadows?’ He was right, of course.” Marshall’s family is grown up now, but she tells this story to show that she’s not immune from the morbid anxiety that appears to have attached itself to contemporary parenting. Tomorrow, she takes up her post as Scotland’s first children’s commissioner, and one of her priorities is to address the thorny issue of balancing children’s need for protection with their right to freedom. Yes, we are guilty of over-protecting the cotton wool-wrapped generation. “But,” Marshall points out, “we adults are also over-protecting ourselves because we’re so afraid of blame if anything goes wrong. That impacts adversely on children’s freedom to grow and develop, and to take risks.