He rode back to me on his bike as I loaded the stroller in the car. “Mom, I don’t think this is a good idea. It doesn’t seem safe to me.”
I smiled deep inside at my careful son. (If you read here often, you might be surprised to hear me refer to Jackson as ‘careful.’ Jackson is an active, spirited child and his impulsiveness has nearly killed him on numerous occasions when he darted across the street without looking or chased a piece of paper caught in the wind across a busy parking lot. But if given a moment to calculate risk, Jackson is quite cautious and his fears can often keep him safe. This was especially handy when he was a toddler and would never climb (even out of a crib) for fear he would hurt himself.)
Tonight, he wanted us to walk home from Susan’s house, (we live a few blocks from each other,) so that he could ride his bike. I had my van with me and I needed to take it home. But I had an idea.
I remembered when Susan and I were Jackson’s age how we would get our mom to let us out of the car a few blocks from home and then we would run home next to the car. We felt so independent – free but still within safety’s reach. (We too were cautious, fearful children.)
So, tonight I thought I would let Jackson fly a little on his own. I suggested the idea to him. “Jackson, how about you ride your bike home and I will drive alongside you in the car. You can ride down to the end of the driveway now and wait for me while I put Olivia in the car.”
He headed off, but returned a moment later, expressing his concern, “Mom, I don’t think this is a good idea. It doesn’t seem safe to me.”
“Okay, Jackson. We can put your bike in the car – no worries. How about I follow you to the end of the driveway and then you can get in.”
“Yes,” he eagerly agreed, “That is what I wanted.”
As he set off, I watched him and knew exactly what would happen next. And it did. It always does with Jackson. He just needs to start something and realize that he can do it and then he is off!
I pulled up next to him with the window down, “Do you want to go to the next driveway?”
He paused and looked up the road and then looked back at me. “Mom, seriously… is this safe? Seriously??”
“I will be right here next to you,” I assured him.
“That is really far away – but, if you stay close.” And he started to pedal. As we neared the driveway, he called out, “I think I can make it all the way home… if you keep the window down and stay right beside me.” He pedaled as hard as he could as the sidewalk rolled upwards into a long incline. It was uphill almost all the way home. I slowly followed next to him, my hazard lights on and waving the odd car by that came up behind me. I smiled and gave them the thumbs up as they passed me. Through their windows I could see their grins.
“A little faster now – stay right next to me,” Jackson guided me as we continued our way home. As we turned the corner and he could see our house just a few houses away, he let me go, “Okay – now you can go normal speed. I will meet you at home…” I could hear the pride in his voice.
As he put his bike away in the garage, Jackson reflected, “What a fun day… I learned to be brave. I killed my fears. Mom – can we do that again one day?”
“Sure, Jackson. I am really proud of you. But do you know what I am happiest about? That you listened to that voice of caution inside you. Our fears are often telling us that we need to be careful and they are often right. You did the right thing coming to Mom with your worries so we could talk about them together and decide what to do.”
Often Jackson seems so different than the child I was growing up. But tonight I saw me in him so clearly. Memories being relived.
As he got ready for bed, Jackson looked at me and confided, “That was freaky today Mom – it really was freaky.” But I saw his eyes twinkling with pride.