I remember it was a warm and sunny summer day with just enough clouds to make it as pretty as a postcard. I was perched on the back of a neighbor kid’s motorcycle whipping around his property without a care in the world. The wind was rushing through my hair adding a cool reprieve to the back of my neck. It felt so right. Until we rounded the corner and I saw my mom and my sister standing at the bottom of the kid’s long driveway, my mom looking furious, my sister looking victorious. You see, I was about 10 years old, the neighbor kid was about 15 and I had absolutely no reason to be ripping around on the back of that little 180. Why was I on that motorcycle? Because I had freedom and trust granted to me by my parents after a lifetime of good behavior. (Side note – I lost a little of that freedom and a whole lot of that trust after this little incident!)
So, how do we deal with the growing freedom our kids are being granted? I know many of you have been wrestling with this issue for awhile with kids who have already reached this milestone in maturity. But me? My oldest is only 6 and she is itching to get on that motorcycle (metaphorically speaking, although I wouldn’t really put it past her if given the chance.) In fact, just the other day she was outside playing with the neighbor kids and I happened to look out the window as she was stepping up on the pegs mounted on the back of one little boy’s bicycle. That was a gigantic skin abrasion waiting to happen. I guess this would be her “motorcycle moment.”
We live in a tight-knit community with a lot of kids. On most days you see kids riding by on bikes, scooters, roller-blades, skateboards and wheelies from sun-up til sun-down. There are parents outside mowing lawns and deadheading mums keeping a watchful eye on their little ones. And I love it. There is a real sense of security here. But I also know that all of that can change in an instant.
So I got to thinking, how much freedom should we give our kids? We live in a pretty scary world right now and quite honestly I would feel very reassured if I could cover Avery up in bubble-wrap, mount security cameras on top of her head and insert a microchip inside her ear so that I know where the kid is and what she is doing 24/7. But, I can’t. (I haven’t yet figured out a way to keep the security cameras steady.) A big part of Avery’s day is after lunch when she can grab her bike and head out to see who’s around. And I let her. But I hate it. And now that she’s tasted that freedom she is testing it. Actually, she is presently grounded for hightailing it all over the neighborhood yesterday without checking in with good ol’ mom. We’ll let her try it again tomorrow and see if she’s learned a lesson. I guess this is my answer. Give them an inch at a time just until it starts feeling uncomfortable. Use our God-given intuition and hope it’s right. Stay informed and form relationships with the people in your neighborhood. Watch out for other kids with hopes that, in turn, when you’re not around parents are watching out for yours. There really are no clear-cut answers to this question when factors are ever-changing. I guess the biggest weapon in our arsenal is our right to change our mind. What may have seemed safe yesterday may not seem so safe today. “Why can’t you go down to the creek and throw rocks with your friend? Because I said so. And, yes, I did let you do that a couple of days ago but today’s a different day.”
So, I am sitting here today upholding punishment for my daughter who is starting to test the waters. I foresee several more days of solitary confinement in this girl’s future. Why? Because she’s just like her mom. She just hasn’t figured out who owns the motorcycle yet.
Love to all, Mindy