Here in Massachusetts we are in the midst of April vacation, and with nothing planned our son asked to hang out with a friend while his father and I worked.
No problem, right? Until he called to ask if he could “explore” the town on his bike.
My husband and I consider ourselves “free-range” parents, but that is not to say that we are not without reservations or restrictions when it comes to giving our kids that range. The problem is – today our son leaped way ahead of us when it comes to home much range he wants compared to what we are prepared to give.
While I sat here “trying” to keep focused on my work, I was bombarded with calls and texts from him, from my mother (who was watching the kids and trying to figure out what we had permitted), and from a neighbor reporting that she had spotted our son in town riding without his helmet.
Let me repeat that. Our son was riding without a helmet. Which is, frankly, one of our only rules. (Let’s also talk about the fact that I love my town, I love my neighbors and with their help I, as our daughter would say, “have eyes everywhere.”)
Checking in on our son using Find my iPhone, I discovered that he was not only not in the section of town I had specified – but he was not actually IN OUR TOWN! When he didn’t answer the phone, so I could point him in the right direction, I used Find my iPhone service to trigger a sound alert (and ultimately getting him to return my call).
Upon arriving back at home, he called me to ask if he could go our local State Park with his friends. Despite some of the errors made earlier in the day, I said yes – but asked him not to go swimming. Faced with his complaining (again) about my restrictions, I finally said…
“You need to cut me some slack. I’m just trying to catch up.”
Because I’m sure it didn’t occur to him that having him “out and about” is already a drain on my brain – but the idea that he and his friends could drown? Just more than I can take.
He may not see it, but I am getting there. Consider this progress:
I WANTED to run screaming home to slap a helmet on his head. But I didn’t because, let’s face it – his father and I rode around without helmets and lived to tell the tale.
I WANTED to start screaming at him about going in exactly the opposite direction of where I sent him. But I didn’t because I understand the desire to explore and take a look around (and it’s still better than him playing inside on video games).
I WANTED to sit staring at the screen to see where he wanders. But I didn’t because he needs to know I trust him, and I need to get used to the idea that I can’t, won’t and shouldn’t be that tuned in. It’s not good for him, and it’s not good for us.
So what’s next? We’re going to take tonight about:
What he did right – turns out he had his helmet and, after our neighbor spotted him (which he didn’t know about), wore it for the rest of the ride, despite the fact his two friends were helmet-less.
What he did wrong – the choice he and his friends made to leave town, having his phone turned off, not charged and not answered.
What’s next – including being honest with him that some of the restrictions and rules are not about him. They are about me.
And that I just need a little time to catch up.