Some background: I have 4 kids, and the 8 year old is my youngest. I am in no way a helicopter mom and I despise that breed of parent.
This week my 8 year old son will be starting baseball practice at a park that is a little under 1 mile from my house. I hate schlepping kids around, so I am thinking about having him bike. He is a generally responsible guy, and used to biking to school or to the store. The pros would be that it would give him more independence and freedom and well as it would free up my time. The one major con is that he would have to cross 2 semi-large streets by himself, which makes me nervous.
I think you should be concerned not only with his level of responsibleness, but also with what you think of traffic in the area. Are the streets between home and the field generally “safe” or do you find yourself often worried about careless drivers, be they young drivers speeding and texting or the confused elderly causing near misses on a regular basis?
Schlepping kids around is part of the deal when you choose to have kids.
There are too many idiots out there behind the wheel, so my answer is a resounding no, I wouldn’t let him do it. I’m not a helicopter mom, either, but just the traffic situation alone makes this a no-brainer.
It’ll take you a whole 5 minutes to drive him to practice and, presumably, another 5 minutes to pick him up and bring him home, so the “it’ll free up my time” angle doesn’t really make sense.
I guess things really have changed. Younger than that, I was allowed to ride my bike around the neighborhood alone fairly freely, and I always thought of my parents as sort of strict. A distance of less than a mile wouldn’t have registered as a potential problem, I don’t think.
It’s not the distance, it’s the area. When I was little I could run around the neighborhood and cross the roads there or even go into the woods unsupervised by adults with friends at 5 years old. I was NOT allowed to cross the busy street in front of my house without an adult present. If there’s two major roads on the way, it could be a hazard.
I think I would object (though if Palo Verde is still in the town I live in, I could make a better judgment if I knew what part of town, but I don’t think it’s too wise to give the crossroads where you live on the internet :p), but only because 8 year olds are a bit small, and drivers can be a bit crazy. I’d be worried about a car not seeing him. I’d say it’d be fine if he walked on the sidewalk (or biked on the sidewalk, though I don’t recommend that because it’s illegal and annoying).
It depends on how busy the roads are and your kid. Are there crosswalks? Can he push a button to get a green WALK sign? If you tell him to wear a helmet and walk (not ride) his bike across the busy streets every single time, will he listen to you? If you doubt he will, don’t let him do this.
Perhaps a compromise: can one of the older kids bike to and from the field with him?
I wouldn’t, around our area. We all walked to school and back most days for about a year and a half (till we moved too far away) and I can think of three times I witnessed drivers do Totally Dumb Shit on the big main road in our way that could have flattened someone. My 8-year-old still believes that if her traffic light is green everything’s hunky-dory because of course the cars will stop. And of course, 99.9% of the time they do…
Do you know your area really well as a pedestrian? The traffic thing is the only thing that would really give me pause, other than that I’m sure he’d be fine.
If your area is decent and there are no registered sex offenders living in your neighborhood, then I fully support him biking to baseball practice. Kids need way more exercise nowadays and if your boy wants to do this, let him! It’ll also go a long way in making him feel like a responsible grown-up, something that will generate rewards later on.
Do not, I repeat, do not let him bike to practice if your only reason is because you’re too lazy to drive your kids to activities. You hate schlepping kids around? That’s your job as a parent! You decided to have kids.
How bad is the traffic, and how good is the area for bicycling? Are there a lot of big trucks and fast drivers? Are the sides of the streets well-maintained so he won’t catch a wheel in a pothole and go over the handlebars/flatten a tire/bend a rim?
I fully support not wanting to schlep kids around. Keeping carpools straight and otherwise getting kids to and from all the places they need to be is the bane of my existence.
However, when my 8 year old had baseball practice about four blocks from home, he didn’t go by himself. I either got home from work early enough to walk over there with him, or I hired a slightly older boy in the neighborhood to hang out with him for half an hour after school and then walk over to practice with him. I was partially worried that he would never get there on time unsupervised, and partially worried about what my neighbors would think.
Another thing to remember about baseball practice is that it takes place at a time of day when there are a lot of cars going into and out of neighborhoods. Not only does he have to know how to cross the busy streets safely he has to remember to look over his shoulder before turning left, watch out for cars leaving driveways and know about right turners. I would especially be nervous if the neighborhood has a lot of teen drivers.
If you decide to let him you should go with him a few times to make sure he’s good at being aware of his surroundings. The one thing in his favor to be able to do this is that he has a definite place to go and a limited time to get there so his mind will be focused on a goal.
What about a compromise of him walking to baseball and you picking him up? If you go to baseball with him the first week you might find some parents who want to share rides.
I’m not in the slightest worried about sex offenders. Traffic is my concern.
The streets he has to cross are not very major, but semi-major, meaning one lane in each direction and a turning lane in the middle. He is used to crossing one of them on his way to the store, but not two of them. He wears his helmet and crosses at crosswalks… like I said he is a responsible kid. Of course the first day I will drive him just to make sure he is comfortable, and the next day I will bike with him, but the idea of his siblings taking him is not going to work, they all have their own things going on.
As for the idea that schlepping kids is just part of being a parent, I strongly disagree. Being a parent means taking care of kids and making sure they learn to be responsible adults. And that means getting themselves to activities if at all possible. Do you think they learn more from having mom drive them to and from everyplace, or from figuring out that if they want something, they have to figure out how to make it happen.
One lane each way plus a turn lane doesn’t sound very major to me, but then I’m a city girl. From what I remember of being a responsible age eight, it’s old enough to learn to navigate intersections and watch out for crazy cars. If he’s already crossing one road on his way to the store, this sounds like a logical next step. I like the suggestions of biking with him a couple times to make sure he’s familiar with the route and the hazards, then turning him loose.
And yay for kids being old enough to do stuff independently!