I remember when I first learned to ride a bike. I remember the exhilarating feeling of freedom when my Dad let go and I continued to roll forward under my own power… until I fully understood what was happening and stumbled to a stop… and was ready to do it again.
I have now experienced this as a parent, letting go of the bike of my child and watching him ride under his own power, my eyes stinging a little as I felt the pull of his independence.
Over the years we would ride to the park and then he would ride with his friends. He was always within my sight or at least I could hear him if he called me. As Moms, it is our job to know where our children are at, at all times, because we might be needed. Right? I am not one of those helicopter moms though (I’m not!).
But now he is 12, almost 13, and I have left him home alone for short periods of time- locked in the house with a phone and a warning- DO NOT open or even answer the door for anyone. Period. I know he has stayed at friends’ houses where the parents allowed them to ride around the block on their bikes without supervision and dropped them off at the movies to be picked up later. I remember doing this when I was young. But was I this young? Isn’t the world different now than it was then? Or maybe it’s because it is my heart gallivanting around in the world without my protection…
The other day some of his friends showed up on their bikes and asked if he could go riding to Golden Eagle Park. As my initial response of “I’ll go too” was on the tip of my tongue, I could see my son was ready with the defense of “everyone has a cell phone… I’ll call when I get there”, “I will answer the phone if you call”, “I am old enough” and finally, “Everything will be OK Mom… don’t worry”. I had to trust that I instilled in him to be cautious, aware, smart and logical. He had been raised well, despite losing his father at a young age. He has turned out to be a confident, well-adjusted young man. I had to trust he knew what to do and how to behave in the world without Mom watching. (Ok, maybe I hover a little).
As for the ride, I got my phone calls every 30 minutes or so and still do. He has since expanded his biking with friends to lunching at Burger King, Senor Taco and Subway as part of their afternoon adventures.
Finding a balance and letting go (at least a little at a time) is a part of life and as a parent we can only hope they remember our words when we are not around, so they stumble in life as little as possible.
I would appreciate any of our readers commenting with their best ideas and advice on how to give independence to teens.