A five-mile bicycle trip separated me from my best friend back when I was a boy.
Given that it was the 1980s, no one thought that much about a 12-year-old boy biking alone along the country roads. My worst fear was missing the right road, forcing me to either ride an extra mile or two around the rural block or turn around.
I don’t particularly remember my mom or dad worrying that much about us either. With seven of us, I’d wager they couldn’t tell you exactly where all of us were at any point in time anyway.
I’ve been thinking about this regular occurrence from my childhood this week when a church choir practice popped up for my 12-year-old daughter. It was during a time both my wife and I should be at work. All of her ride options seemed to be exhausted — until my wife suggested the two-wheeled solo option.
It’s two miles from our house to the church, completely in-town with slower-moving traffic and sidewalks the entire way. She never had to cross a major road. She has a cell phone, so she can call for help if needed. The phone’s GPS makes it pretty easy for me to see where she is on the map. Frankly, she’s ridden her bike further before, occasionally crossing some busy streets, while riding around with her friends.
Yet I was still panicked for her, until I started thinking about those five-mile rides out to my buddy’s house.
Those trips built my self-confidence and self-reliance. They gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, as long as my parents permitted it. They helped make me an independent person.
Unfortunately, we as parents can be so overprotective. We’ll offer to drive our kids everywhere, then we’ll gripe when they treat us like unpaid taxi cabs. We want to know where they are at all times, yet we complain when they expect us to fill every moment with entertainment. We want them to be safe, yet we’re frustrated they never take any chances.
Children’s development falls squarely on parents’ shoulders, and we shouldn’t let our own panic attacks carry over into their lives.
Sure, we should protect them from known harms. That doesn’t mean we need to put our own unreasonable paranoia into their heads, though.
Unsurprisingly, my 12-year-old made it to choir practice and back with absolutely no issues. She seemed a little confused why I even asked her about it afterward.
Clearly, it was more momentous for me than for her. To her, it was just another bicycle ride. To me, it was one step closer to the day she’ll be on her own.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.