boy, bike, block, bind

I’ve been struggling to remember recently when we gave the Bee certain freedoms, as the Potato has been on the march for more independence. The main thing he wants to do (at least this week) is to be able to ride his bike around the block by himself. He’s allowed to go around the block with his sister, but she’s not always interested in riding with him.

I remember well the first day that I let the Bee go around the block by herself. I sat on the porch, pretending to read a magazine and looking at my watch every 15 seconds. I had decided to give her ten minutes to accomplish the task–not because we live on a big block, but because I know that the brain of a small kid is easily distracted by pretty rocks and interesting leaves. She made it back safely (and inside the ten minutes), and I started breathing again.

But was she four? five? I can’t remember.

I’m sure if I ask her, she’ll be able to tell me–the Bee has never been one to relinquish the memory of a hard-won victory. But in a way, I don’t want to remind her about it, because then she’ll insist that the same rule must apply to him.

We’re starting to walk that delicate balance between being fair to her and respecting the things she’s achieved, and acknowledging that maybe we were over-protective the first go-round about that kind of thing. At this point, I can’t imagine waiting till the Potato is five to let him go around the block–the kid isn’t even four yet, and he’s constantly outside. I think that bike might become part of him by the end of the summer.

Some of it has to do with their different personalities, of course. The Bee is a clingy kid, while the Potato is more confident in new situations, in part because he has his big sister blazing a path for him. As soon as we all got home tonight, the two of them ran down the block to play with some friends without even coming in the house–that’s not something she would have done at 3. But he knows it’s okay to do it, because he’s got his big sister with him.

Like every parent, I struggle with how much independence to give my kids, how to balance my need to know they’re safe with the reality that I can’t always know that they’re safe. And that I have to be okay with not knowing, or I’ll go crazy.


April 23, 2007. growing up, thoughtful parenting.


  1. elise replied:

    I don’t think I can give you any suggestions. I’m just a country girl at heart, we don’t have blocks and the thought of letting my kids ride around a block seems strange. We have to wonder how old they will be before they can deal with bears! No kidding, Thomas once came running in and said a bear with two cubs came within 15 feet of him! I used to wonder if a three year old would be seen as a meal! Different problems!

  2. Jennifer (ponderosa) replied:

    Oh, sigh. That final paragraph you wrote — I think that almost every day.

    We don’t have a block to go around. Just down the street and back up. I think I would have a heart attack, letting my kids disappear from view like that.

  3. Doppelganger replied:

    Yeah, I’m already worrying about stuff like this, and Sam’s barely two. I think about a time, a few years from now, when we’ll be letting Sam roam around the island we bought our land on, and the thought that I might not know EXACTLY where he is for an entire morning or afternoon just about kills me. I don’t know how my mother kept her sanity.

  4. thordora replied:

    I’m so not sure when it’s ok to let mine “loose” on the world. I KNOW my mother was never ok with it, as I was at least 7 or 8 before she let me outside of the boundries of the yard. I remember going past them once. I as nearly beaten for that little endeavor.

    It will be just as hard for me to let go, I’m sure….sending my oldest around the garage to go get something was a struggle yesterday….I have to remind myself she’s practically a four year old-a virtual big girl.

    hell, thinking about sending her to school makes me cry, so what do I know?

  5. chichimama replied:

    Wow. I am impressed by both your kids independence. We have tried to get C to ride his bike off of the driveway, at age five, with mom and dad along and he cries hysterically at the thought. I have to assume that once he starts school next year and actually knows kids down the street, he will want to go visiting on his own, but who knows? So I guess I can’t help you much there…

  6. penguinunearthed replied:

    That’s really interesting. My two are 5 and 3, I don’t let them go to the playground two doors down by themselves. (not that they’ve asked, but I don’t think I would).

    I can’t remember for myself, but I wasn’t the independent type, so I didn’t particularly want to.

    I think my 5 year old would actually be fine going around the block (but it’s quite a big one – probably a 10 minute walk including going past the shops), but so far all I’ve done is left him by himself in the house while I go across the road to the coffee shop.

    In this neighbourhood, they seem to be about 7 or 8 before you see them walking the streets by themselves.

  7. Comfort Addict replied:

    LM, I can’t even imagine this. I don’t see lots of little kids (i.e. below 5) going around the block alone in our neighborhood but then I do live in the hinterlands. Good luck with this.

  8. Retro Bicycles replied:

    Give me an old cool bicycle, and I’ll ride around the city for days.

  9. Thomas Bailey replied:

    Around the block? Heck, I’ve biked to six counties: Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, and Santa Cruz. I came fairly close to Contra Costa and San Benito Counties. My favorite biking route has very heavy auto traffic (El Camino Real). This was how I biked to San Francisco.

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