Christian and I went on a kid-free bike ride on Friday afternoon. We’ve been trying to do this for approximately 5 years—ever since parenthood staked its claim on our mythological “free time.” With a few hours of relief from our hectic work lives, and with the boys safely tucked away at school, Christian and I made our escape down the Tomahawk Creek Trail, and we had the best time. The October sunshine was absolutely perfect, and we felt like kids again, speeding along with the wind in our faces. I’m pretty sure I inhaled a bug at one point, but no matter. It was a glorious afternoon.
As we pedaled along, my mind traveled back to my childhood summers in the country. As a kid, I was a bona fide bike-a-holic. My friend Brian and I rode all over the neighborhood, and we enjoyed total freedom in our little adventures. I can remember riding miles in the blistering heat, and there were many times when our folks had no idea where we were. And frankly, it didn’t matter. Our environment was safe. We were trustworthy kids. And we had earned the right to go and do as we pleased, within reason.
While Christian and I enjoyed our own little adventure on Friday, we talked a lot about our childhood bike excursions. We also talked about our own kiddos and their serious lack of freedom—at least at the present time. We watch those boys like hawks, partly because they are uber naughty, and partly because we are terrified at the thought of losing them. It’s hard to imagine a time when we’ll let them take off on their own bikes, riding out of sight to who-knows-where. It makes me crazy to think of it, but it also makes me very sad to think that I would not allow them the freedom I enjoyed as a kid.
The media’s hyper-coverage of childhood tragedies has given me leave to indulge my psycho mom-ness to the nth degree. And I do think there’s a lot to be said for being aware of what your kids are doing, who they’re with and where they are. But it’s also possible to take a “constant vigilance” approach way too far. Kids need freedom to play and chase and climb and break a few bones without Mommy being right there to squash their fun.
I hope we can raise our kids to be trustworthy, and I hope they’ll earn the right to do as they please, within reason. But most of all, I hope that we can parent like our own parents did—giving Wyatt and Graham the opportunity to make their own choices and mistakes, knowing that they are equipped to make good choices. After all, how can they grow up to be fine young men without inhaling a few bugs along the way?