There are times when being a mother requires me to be braver than I’ve ever been before. The sad thing is, for me it’s usually regarding something that should be simple, like letting my kids ride their bikes around the neighborhood alone.
I hate that I live in a time when we’re afraid to let our kids be free. I don’t know if it’s parenting styles or the media or my mother working in an ER for 40 years, but I am just scared to let my kids go around unattended. I’ve tried to let them, and they’re starting to branch out a little further now (never without walkie-talkies), but I’m still not confident.
I’m constantly asking other moms how far they let theirs go and I get a range of answers. I want to hear someone say, “Why worry? It’s totally safe.” And then when someone does, it’s still not convincing enough for me to feel confident.
One very astute friend of mine pointed out, “When we were young, all the kids were out in the neighborhood. You knew where the moms were, what houses you could go to, and what houses to stay away from.”
It’s so simple and true. Now we don’t have packs of kids running around (safety in numbers), fewer moms at home, and many more creeps (or at least an online predator database that tells us so).
Sometimes I get tired of hearing myself whine about this subject. But my kids are old enough now, I know that they need to roam, and they should. It’s good for them to rely on their own wits, and how else are they going to learn all the things they need to about self-sufficiency? I was just hoping I’d be more convinced of their safety by this point.
I see Older’s friends starting to walk back and forth to school, and ride their bikes downtown or to the park, and I think, he should be doing it too. When I was his age, I walked the quarter-mile to the bus stop and rode my bike for miles. His father walked back and forth to school one mile every day.
So I let him go around the block or a few blocks away until he gets to his appointed friend’s house and calls me. And I know he’ll get there, and I know he’ll be fine, and yet I feel fear punctuated by panic the entire time until I hear his voice.
I heard an interesting theory the other day that there aren’t more bad people in the world, there are simply more people in the world, so more bad things happen (because there will always be a percentage of bad things that happen no matter what we moms do to kid ourselves that there won’t).
Another idea I came across is that we have to challenge our kids in order to let them know that we believe they can handle the challenge. By pushing them away a little bit we’re saying, I trust you, and I trust that you can do this. A far better message than, “The world is too scary for you.”
Sometimes I just remember my father’s old sayings to calm myself down: “Everything’s fine!” “What are you worried about?!” “That’s NOT gonna happen.” He would toss one of these over his shoulder with a “Pfffft!” and a shrug and we’d be off riding motorcycles through the woods. His confidence that we would be totally fine was so comforting to me. My boys – and maybe me – need a woodsy motorcycle ride right about now.