In my last post I shared with you a story of how I needed to set aside my own discomfort and hesitation to allow my oldest son a little room to grow up. It involved him navigating the subway system to/from a summer job, and while he made mistakes in finding the right train at times- the most important lesson he learned was how to problem solve when things don't go as planned! You can read the whole story here…
But as it turns out, this summer was filled lots of these types of “letting them grow up” decisions for me. One of them was inspired by the Tour de France. We were only a few days into our summer vacation when the famous grueling bike race started and my older boys were fascinated with watching this event unfold day after day. So much so- that they decided they too wanted to get out and ride their bikes too. The only problem? We hadn't purchased new bikes for any of our kids in years- since we made the move to our new home three years ago with its steep driveway that empties out onto a busy town road. So my three big gangly teens started folding themselves up with their knees practically around their ears in order to peddle furiously on their kind of old and too-small bikes.
Until I realized- that Steve and I both owned road bikes that we barely ever used. So the kids and I dug them out of the garage, dusted them off, added air to the tires and then they took them out for a test ride around the yard. But I hadn't anticipated that they would actually want to ride them on the town roads- where the berms are narrow, the cars whiz by above the posted 35-mph speed limit and where there are no sidewalks to ride on.
What do I do? How do I decide if this is okay? What is “safe enough”? Were they ready to pay attention to traffic, traffic signals, and handle these bikes that they weren't even familiar with? What if they lost control? Crashed into something? Got hit by a car?
I wanted to proclaim that none of this was safe- and crawl away quickly and hide. But I paused. Next year- my oldest will be of the age to drive a car- so for goodness sake- shouldn't I trust him to be safe on a bike? And while I have no control over what other drivers would do on the road- whether they would give my kids a wide berth as they passed- I could make sure that my kids knew the rules of the road, wore safety equipment like helmets and paid attention to what the cars were doing.
So I agreed to let them try and offered plenty of “rules and conditions”. And I also allowed my 13-year old son to ride along with his older brother as long as they stuck together (in a single file line of course!). Off they went. And had an exhilarating time. Truly- I think it was their first taste of total teenage freedom- where they could control where they wanted to go and how they would get there. They loved it- especially my oldest.
Even my 14-year old got into the idea- and asked to ride his bike over to his friend's house. It was just one trip across the busy road and then he would be on side streets the whole time until he reached his friend's driveway. So I allowed him to go. Before too long- he and his friend came pedaling up our driveway- faces flushed from the ride over and happy to have provided their own transportation. I was basking in their new found independence and patting myself on the back that I allowed it to happen- until the Mom of my son's friend called to find out if they really biked over here on their own. She was horrified that they biked across the busy (35 mph) town road and made it clear that her son knew he wasn't allowed to do this. Uh oh- my son must have talked him into it. Fortunately she and I are good friends and she wasn't angry with my decision as much as she was angry that her son broke their own rules…. but as I found myself explaining that this was a new situation for me- and that I was trying to give my kids a little room to grown up- I found myself questioning my own decision at the same time!
Was I doing the right thing? I still wasn't sure.
But as kids do- they moved on to other interests and activities as summer rolled along- and this particular issue didn't come up again.
But ocean paddle boarding did.
You see my brother has a condo on the beach in Florida that my family and I are lucky enough to visit a few times a year, and my brother also owns several paddle boards. On past visits- I have even taken one out for a spin- but decided I like lakeside paddle boarding MUCH better than attempting it on the ocean. Waves, currents, not to mention the very real chance of seeing sharks keeps my heart pounding in fear the entire time. It makes it hard for me to enjoy the experience.
So never did I think that while I had my younger three kids out by the pool one day, that my 14 and 13 year old would be texting their uncle asking for permission to take out the paddle boards and that my brother would say “yes”! Yikes! The two older ones gleefully came out to the pool to inform me that they had permission to use the paddle boards and they were going to give it a try.
With my heart in my throat- I started issuing instructions- “Stay close to shore, just over the wave break (where the water would only be about waist deep). Know that it might be hard to come back so don't go too far down the beach” and on and on. And then I watched nervously as they took the boards out of the condo and brought them down to the water's edge. All while keeping one side-eye on the three younger ones swimming in the pool (did I mention I was the only adult there that day?)
They were shaky trying to get up on the boards and then paddle their way past the wave break. I could see my 13 year old was definitely nervous about the experience, but bravely tried to go on. I asked the three younger ones to hop out of the pool so we could follow the boys down the beach, and while they took their time complying with my request, it wasn't long before the paddle boarders were nearly out of our sight. So finally I hurried the four of us down the beach to try to catch up to them- and after we were about a mile from the condo- the older two realized that the current was too strong for them to turn the paddle boards around in the direction they came and make it back to where they started.
So here's where I kind of stepped back and let them figure it out. And before long, they carried their boards out of the water and met me on shore. Exhilarated from trying. But feeling a little defeated in their attempt to master ocean paddle boarding.
I'm sure you can figure out how this story ends…. the 6 of us all worked very hard to carry these two VERY HEAVY paddle boards an entire mile up the beach on a VERY HOT and sunny afternoon! But all the while I was thinking about how I was proud of them for trying it, and proud of myself for once again, letting them grow up, just a bit- in spite of all of my own inner dialogue and worries.
How did you let your kids grow up a little this year? I would love to hear your stories too!