My boy has sipped from the delicious cup of freedom and there is no turning back. As you know, I’ve always loved the wandering. Go forth, ride like the wind, find your friends, explore. Come home tired, happy, dirty and smarter.
I feel lucky to live in a city that feels safe for our kids. There are sidewalks, bike paths, businesses and people out and about – lots and lots of people. There are also lakes and trees and parks and donut shops. Lenore Skenazy, a proponent of anti-helicopter parenting and free roaming kids writes about the “popsicle test” – if an 8 year old can walk to buy a popsicle by herself and finish it before getting home, then that city is probably thriving and therefor a safe place for children to inhabit and own. I think our little apple passes the popsicle test with flying colors.
Then there’s what I’m going to call the “eyes and ears” test. In the last couple weeks I’ve had at least three friends mention that they spotted Saint James out and about with his crew. There’s a loose but vast web of benevolent watchers who will recognize my kid and take note of where he is and what he’s up to. There are scores of mamas who will, I trust, report back to me if they see something I wouldn’t like.
When I spot one of my friends’ kids out in the wild, I make a point to wave or make the quickest of quick breezy contacts – just so they know I see them and just so they’ll see me. If they’re too far away, I take a beat to check them out – make sure all is well. Our kids seeing and being seen by adults they know has a double benefit: I will tell your mom if you’re not wearing your helmet. But also: I am here if you need me.
So I’m purportedly comfortable with the ever widening perimeter Saint James is claiming as his own. Why then, did I spend this past weekend in a state of suspended waiting and disbelief as the hours stacked up and he didn’t darken my doorway for food, drink or rest?
He’s roaming far and wide, and with him – always – goes a piece of my heart. I know he’s a good kid and he looks both ways before crossing the street. I also know that if there’s a short cut that doesn’t involve staying on the bike paths, he’s going to take it. I know that the boys really are playing sports for hours on end. But I also know that these day-long peregrinations may not be as wholesome at age 16.
My conversations with Dash are completely ridiculous.
Me: Oh my gosh, he’s been gone since ten this morning!
Dash: Ya, it’s good.
Me: It IS good. Yes! So good. I love it. But it’s been hours!
Dash: uh huh.
Me: I mean, what is he eating? He’s going to be so exhausted! What are they doing? He left at the crack of dawn this morning!
Dash: You’re the one who’s always saying . . .
Me: IknowIknowIknow!!! It’s good! It’s so good, but it’s been HOURS!
Dash: . . .
Me: I mean, what on earth are those boys up to? It’s been hours!
Dash: . . .
Me: It’s so awesome. Ya. Don’t you think he should come home rest for a bit before practice?
And I’m leaving out the parts where Dash rolls his eyes and tells me I can’t have it both ways and that I started the whole wandering thing and I slam the door in a huff.
Yep, we’re still figuring this out. So for now the rules are that he has to tell us the plan and who’s involved. He has to text back within a reasonable period of time if we text him – we have yet to define what a reasonable period of time is because he’s been decent at getting back to us. He needs to text when there’s a change of location. I’m also thinking he’s going to have to come home for lunch or start using his own money for food otherwise he’ll be at Tin Fish feasting on fish tacos every damn day this summer.
And the most important rule of all: be a good kid. You never know who might be watching.