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10/1/17blog post

why supervision isn't always the key to safety

A recent Saturday morning was pretty typical. I got up around 5:30 am, did some work in my home office, and then went for my daily morning run.  Accompanied by music ranging from Coldplay to Maroon 5, these runs invigorate my body and relax my soul.

At the end of the run, I noticed a strange object moving in the distance. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, and the morning fog made the image somewhat opaque. It continued to advance towards me, and in a few moments, I saw something I hadn’t seen in many years.

A young boy, perhaps no more than ten years old, was riding his bike alone in the park in the early morning!

I looked around for an older sibling or adult but could find no one. If this was another runner, I would look up and give a passing hello. However, I’m sure this youngster was cautioned to never talk to strangers, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to do.

As the boy got closer, our eyes met, and he smiled enthusiastically and simply said “good morning.” I responded in kind. 

I rarely see children playing alone, let alone a young child riding his bike by himself in a park.  Things have changed over the past generations. I got my first bike when I was about nine, and it was my passport to freedom. I’d be gone most of the day, riding with friends, exploring the city, and occasionally getting into a bit a trouble. I learned how to deal with life, with the comforting knowledge that I had two loving parents to rescue me.

The level of supervision given to most children today is extraordinary.  It’s understandable, I suppose, even if the response is disproportion to the threat. Media reports of stranger abductions terrify parents. However, these events are extremely rare, perhaps around 125 children every year abducted by strangers.

Kids pay a high cost for growing up in this bubble wrap environment. They don’t learn how to manage risks, solve problems, deal with frustrations, fail, and develop resiliency. Kids growth into adulthood is delayed, with college kids phoning home for guidance for matters they should manage on their own. Parents fail in one of their most fundamental functions---to make themselves unnecessary.

This is a tough issue for parents, where safety should always be the highest priority. However, parents often have a misplaced sense of risk.  Statistically speaking, that young boy was safer riding his bike alone in the park than being babysat by his older male cousin.

Lighten up a bit on the surveillance and supervision. Your kids will be okay.