|David's journal from his bike trip.|
When David was 17, he rode his 10-speed bike from his small town in Minnesota to Washington state, then down to California.
Please imagine this with me. Still in high school. No cell phones. No family stops along the way. One boy. One bike. The great unknown and hours and hours and hours by himself. Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong.
Except, nothing really did. He prepared his trip really well, he knew how to take his bike apart, fix it, and put it back together. He budgeted his money for food and supplies. He had family and friends send him letters at post offices along the way. He knew what he was doing and he did it. He confided in me that it was one of the hardest things he's done, but also one of the most rewarding. His mom once said, "I'm not really sure what we were thinking letting him go on that trip all by himself." And we've joked that it was a bit of stretch, his parents letting him do that all by himself. But David was (and is) pretty responsible and was (and is) really great at planning travel. So it all worked out.
If you're not a frequent reader of Free Range Kids, then you should be. I absolutely love that blog and read it often to get a dose of parenting reality. I think, as a parent, I fall somewhere in the middle. Pretty protective in some areas, and super lenient in others. If you've been to our house you know we are surrounded by trees, rocks, and the occasional cactus. Sometimes people will come to our house and be visiting with me and suddenly gasp, "Your children! They're going to kill themselves!" I follow their gaze and see my kids hanging from trees, jumping off giant rocks, and sitting precariously close to places where Black Widow spiders most likely live. For me, when my kids are outside I really don't care what they do. I want them to ride their bikes around the neighborhood by themselves, get to know strangers (like our neighbors), play, get filthy dirty, and build things with hammers and nails. I want them to (and I let them) ride elevators by themselves and meet me at the top. I want them to (and I let them) go into the grocery store with money, pick up some milk, pay for it, and meet me back at the car. I want them to (and I let them) be out of my sight for long periods of time and solve their own problems. Right now Zinabu is in the kitchen cutting his own apple with (gasp) a knife! These sound like such little things, but in today's version of parenting, they're monumental.
Would I let Carver, at age 17, ride his bike to Maine? Probably not. But I always hope I am the kind of parent that lets my children stretch their wings, test the water, loosen the apron strings, and gain some independence without me always hovering over them, making sure their grapes are forever cut in half or that they have clean socks.
It's all about balance.