Now that my kids are getting older, my husband and I have been giving them a bit more freedom. One of those freedoms is allowing them to ride their bikes up the hill in front of our house, around the block, and back down.
Our kids have been on bikes since they were young, so this seemed like a rather tame new freedom to offer them. Liam, our 8-year-old, is incredibly competent on a bike. He learned to ride on a Strider at 2 years old and had to have a specially made bike to move into after he mastered that because he was still too small for a 20-inch bike. The bike often knows the safety rules, and is confident in their abilities (as are my husband and me.)
However, in the first week, we’d offered this new freedom, Liam had a major wipeout on his bike.
We were sitting in the living room, expecting Liam home any minute when we heard a series of crashes outside followed by whaling and crying. As Mike and I ran for the back door to see what happened, Liam ran in the front door.
His mouth was full of dirt. His helmet was bent towards his face. He had dirt in his eyes and ears. He was bleeding from his thigh and holding his side. His wrist was scrapped and beginning to swell. He was shaking.
There was so much dirt, we couldn’t even see exactly where he was hurt, so we stuck him in the shower.
After piecing things together, it appears that his brakes gave out while he was coming down the hill. He was unable to slow down and stop at the bottom of the hill. He sped through the intersection and when his front tire hit our front yard, he appears (from the marks on our lawn) to have gone airborne twice before being flung over the handlebars and sliding about ten feet, face first, through the dirt. At some point, the handlebars went into his right thigh and the bike ended up about fifteen feet to the left of his little body.
We’re about four days post-crash and you’d never even know something happened earlier in the week aside from some scrapes and bruises. But we are well aware of the fact that he easily could have suffered a concussion, broken bone, or worse.
The most terrifying part of this entire scenario is that it means that he went right through a four-point intersection without stopping, at top speed. I can’t even begin to think about what would have happened if a car had been approaching that intersection at that exact moment without becoming physically sick.
The thing is, this stuff is hard.
You give them a little freedom and then they make a mistake that you can’t fix for them. As they get older, the stakes just get bigger.
I can’t even begin to think about allowing them to drive or drive in cars with friends. It’s terrifying.
Everyone talks about how hard babies are, and toddlers – but no one talks about how hard it is when you begin to relinquish control to these little people you’ve made and raised. No one talks about how hard it is to watch them make mistakes and get hurt.
Giving them freedom feels like taking two steps forward and one step back.
Maybe that’s how it’s meant to be. I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m terrified for the next time.