I let my son ride his bike unsupervised

30 Dec


When I was little I lived on my bike. I’d wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast (under protest), hop on my bike and pedal away for the day. No helmet, no padding, no shin guards or wrist guards. It was just me, my bike and my little legs pedaling furiously. One of my favourite games to play on my bike was to pretend it was a car and I was all grown up. I’d ‘drive’ my bike on the right side of the road, indicate and swing in and out of our driveway for hours.

I had a c0uple of major stacks. One was when I swapped bikes with a friend on the street and decided to fly down the big hill on the unfamiliar bike, falling off and limping home bleeding from head to toe. My mum was horrified and for the next month we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes on the road. We were SO BORED. Eventually we negotiated to use them in front of our house and soon enough we were flying down the hill again and spending the entire day riding our bikes, returning home only to use the bathroom and eat.

I never planned to be a helicopter parent. I was going to be one of those really cool mums who set reasonable limits but let my kids have fun and explore. I’d guide them, teach them and then wave them off on their day of adventure. Then I had my first child. I was overwhelmed by love and happiness and fear. How was I going to keep him safe? The answer…he’ll never leave my side. Problem solved.

Fast-forward eight years and my son is champing at the bit for a bit of freedom. We live on a double cul-de-sac and he watches other children play on their bikes and scooters. I see them too, and I see the cars roaring up and down the road as well (P-platers!). We’ve been watching them for the past three years and they manage quite well. My son is eight, almost nine. I’ve taken all three of my children out there to play three or four times but I’ve stayed there with them.

This Christmas my son was given a new Spiderman bike and he was dying to get on it and ride around. I just couldn’t wait for the weekend to take it to the park. So I made a decision.

Against my better judgement (because there are so many ways he could be maimed or killed by this decision) I told him he could go for a ride. I told him to stay with his friends, to pull over when he saw a car and to keep his helmet on. I told him to ride up the driveway and call out every few minutes. I waved him off, closed the door and sat down nervously.

Firstly, he flew down our driveway so fast, whizzing onto the road and immediately joining his friends. I watched him ride up and down the street in complete ecstasy. He was gone for about two minutes before he rode back up our driveway to say hello and then whizzed back down for more fun. I suspect his willingness to regularly check in with me had something to do with the fact that our sloped driveway gave him quite a bit of torque to projectile himself onto the road.

I felt sick the entire time he was out but also a little proud. It took about twenty minutes for me to crack, grab the little ones and join him on the street.

I want my children to have fun, to have adventures, to climb and explore but everywhere I turn there is danger. There are people on the street I haven’t met, cars that drive a little too fast for my liking, awkward falls that could result in injury. I wish I could switch my mind off but paranoia keeps children alive so perhaps it has it’s place. I’m yet to strike the balance.

It’s my fault for moving into a double cul-de-sac. It was inevitable that he’d want to join in the fun and how many childhood TV shows and movies show kids playing in the street. I grew up watching The Wonder Years and Stand By Me. Their formative years were spent playing in the street, visiting each other, lying to their parents about where they were (he’d better not). I want him to experience all this, safely and I hope I ease up enough for it to happen for him.

Because a life lived in fear is a life half-lived, right? But ask any parent and if we were being honest we’d probably admit we’d be happy for our children to have half-lives as long as it meant they were safe.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

2 Responses to “I let my son ride his bike unsupervised”

  1. Sharon December 30, 2012 at 6:17 am #

    We were the same when we were kids. Gulp down breakfast, hit the streets on the bike and be home ‘when the street lights come on’. I have 5 children now, 4 adult children and a 10yr old and it surprises at how overprotective I am. I don’t think I was this bad when my adult children were younger. Like you, I want my child to have fun but I’m so scared for her (and myself I suppose). We spend a lot of time together and I try to make it as fun for her as I can but I’m no substitute for friends. Unfortunately where we live there aren’t many children around.


  2. Cathy December 30, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    Very brave of you! I don’t know if I could do it…


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