I sometimes let my two older boys have a little freedom in the bike-riding department.

A little freedom.

They have to stay absolutely together, they cannot go more than one street away, it must be daylight and not even anything close to resembling dusk, they always wear helmets, and (the real clincher) they have to take walkie-talkies with them (one for them, one for me) and we have to stay in very frequent communication.

They really love that last part. 

There’s nothing like sailing down the street on your Huffy bike, the wind in your face, and your momma breaking in every 90 seconds to croak, "BOYS?  Are you okay?"

In fact, today as they headed out the door for a quick ride, I KID YOU NOT, Stephen hollered over his shoulder, "Mom?  Don’t call us–we’ll call you!"

Don’t call us, we’ll call you?  I never expected to need to hire an agent to get the kids home for dinner.

All of this does, however, beg the question–how do you handle the issue of giving kids freedoms such as bike-riding or dog-walking without you?  Do you have any particular age criteria in place?  What are some of the guidelines you give your kids? 

And don’t you desperately wish we didn’t have to worry about it?

53 thoughts on “Freedom

  1. Laura says:

    Thankfully I don’t. Honestly we live in such a small isolated community that the worse thing my kids have to worry about when out riding their bikes is running into a bear and I’m not kidding. Every night this past week we’ve had them hanging out in the backyard and in the carport. They need to go to sleep already, I’m a prisoner in my own home!

  2. Nikki says:

    Hmmm…this is a dilemma I would love an answer for myself. The 2 year old? Not on your nellie sweet-heart! The 7 year old? This one I’m not sure about. What a great idea the walkie talkies are though! Kudos to you…I’m stealing your idea (I’m sure 7yo will be impressed!)

  3. Corrie says:

    I’ve resorted to the walkie-talkie thing too. But somehow, I’m more able to let my boy roam farther (with a friend) than my girls.
    Oh! and I never let them use their real name on the walkie-talkies and we have 2 channels picked out in case one gets interference.

  4. meredith says:

    We live on a cul-de-sac, my grils have to stay on our dead end street…and they have to stay with in whistle distance, so that if I whistle, they come right back into my sight. I also insisted that they always stay together.

  5. Ronda says:

    Our basic rule for Nathan at our old house was that if you cannot see the front porch, then you were too far away. This was because if I walked out the front door and could not see him, I didn’t want to hunt through the neighborhood hunting him down, meanwhile feeling my heart slowly panicing!
    Now that we are in a much smaller and kid friendly neighborhood, the rule is that you stay in our yard. Our next door neighbor has 2 kids that Nathan playes with all the time. We can see most of their yard, but he must ask permission first to go over and play with them, just so that we know exactly where he is. Plus anytime he goes out to play he must come in and check in often, in addition to one of us going out to check up on him ourselves.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I ride a bike with them, Dad runs with them, they go in a gang (the old-fashioned neighborhood kind) and all of the moms keep the phones hot at each sighting, they must always ask to leave and I most always say yes, 12 year old has a cell phone, we hope that the 10 year old is too heavy to pick up, we have a 1.5 mile circle-route that we know they will be on if they go the “long” route and a block run if they go on a shortie, we let them ride to or from a location while we follow and then put the bikes on the rack to go home, but my favorite time was when my neighbor and I stalked the herd by car… we saw that they were doing a great job. But then again, it’s not them we worry about, huh?

  7. faithful chick says:

    It is such a shame that we have to worry about all of this. I can remember when I was a kid (gee, I hope it wasn’t that long ago), my mom would kick us out of the door in the morning and we would only come back inside for meals. We played in the woods and went on tons of adventures. Now, I cannot stand for my kids to even be on the other side of the front door without having to call their name every five seconds. I guess the rules are different if you live in a rural area versus city. Good idea withe the walkie talkies!

  8. Jeana says:

    I’m pretty paranoid about it. They have to stay on our street, on our block. It is a pretty long block, but the next block runs into a pretty busy street so I’ve been reluctant to let them go up there. I figure we’ll know when we’re ready to let them go further; I don’t really have an age in mind.

  9. CP says:

    I tend to be a worry wart about a lot of stuff, but have gotten much better over the years. Al rides her bike a lot and runs too. She needs to stay on our street though can only go up and down it so we can keep an eye out. The neighborhood is pretty quiet, but every once in a while we get a person who’ll speed down the street…

  10. Melessa, Mommy of Four says:

    I do wish we didn’t have to worry, and my kids thank you for the walkie-talkie suggestion. Now they can leave the driveway. (Not kidding-but we live in the country and it’s not so much a driveway as a right-of-way to farm land. But still…)

  11. chocolatechic says:

    I was extremely fortunate that when my kiddos were between the ages of 4-12, we lived waaaaaay out in the middle of nowhere. I would tell the kids to go play in the woods, and if they heard the bell, to come running. I have an old school bell that I would ring. They would go climb trees, play in the creek, ride their bikes down to the Amish neighbors.
    When the boy was 12, and the girl was 10, we moved in town, and they were relegated to our yard. Period. I got a trampoline. That helped. They were allowed to ride their bikes around the block. They were not happy we moved into town.

  12. Dana says:

    My son is 12 and we live in a very small housing addition. He can ride his bike around the whole thing, but he has to tell me where he is going when he leaves the house – i.e. to whose house he is going, etc. And he knows if he wants to go elsewhere – to someone else’s house for example, he has to come back and tell me so I always know where he is.

  13. Demeter says:

    We use walkie-talkies, too. We just moved this past weekend, but we were right in the city, in a neighborhood. The neighborhood used to be good, but has gone down in recent years. My son (just turned 12) has been allowed to go down about 3 blocks on his own, with the walkie, for about a year now. Before that, it was only one block over (but I didn’t require the walkie that close). My daughter (just turned 9) was only allowed to go that far if she was with someone, and even if she was with someone, if she was going that far it was only with the walkie.
    Plus, there was only one direction they were allowed to go in. The opposite direction was too scary.
    Thankfully, we’re in an area now that’s out in the country and fairly quiet – at least, it looks that way! – so maybe I can quit worrying quite so much!

  14. TZ says:

    walkie talkies that’s a GREAT idea..thanks!
    my boys look out the windows longingly at the other boys whose moms are less afraid then I am…and we live in a good neighborhood, have NO idea why i’m a freak about it…
    mostly the kids are allowed half way up the block and in the adjacent culdesac and only if i’m on the front porch and can call out and they can hear me.

  15. hickmomof3 says:

    Even if I wasn’t worried about creepy people, there are those thsat drive entirely too fast. We did get one of those plastic standup Slow down signs with a tall orange flag. It helps. In fact you can hear people screech to a halt when they see it, even if the kids are in the driveway.
    I am wondering at what age do you let your boys go to the bathroom in a store alone. My DH (who is far from scittish) Says don’t you dare let him go in by himself. My boys are 7 and 10. It is very scary when my ,usual “don’t worry, they’ll be fine” DH is concerned.

  16. Just Beachy says:

    Check. Check. Check. My daughter was 12 before she was able to go the next street over, with my cell phone. She has this funny which sums up my over-protectiveness beautifully.
    She says, “I can see when I get sixteen and driving (as if). Mom, please let me do more than just right turns, they always lead me back home. Mom, i’m at the light, it’s green can I turn left, pleeeaaasseee, there is an arrow.” Too funny.

  17. Veggiemomof2 says:

    My kids get freedom in certain places, like school & Church. We do not live in a big city, so I don’t hold their hands everyone (confused DD10 when I did this in the city until I explained things were different there) but I don’t send them far on their own…I don’t like it if we can’t hear each other’s voices.

  18. Everyday Mommy says:

    This is so tough, Shannon. Especially since it applies inside my own home as well. Freedom on the computer can be just as dangerous. How do you handle that with your kids?

  19. LeeAnn says:

    I agree. It is hard to know how far and at what age. I led with twin boys, and I have been hard on the “stay together” idea. It simplified the in-store bathroom routine, at least until they came out separately (and I’d send them back in.) My daughter is very independent so she has almost been harder. I never thought about walkie talkies. I think I’ll send my son with that when he goes bike riding. The traffic is probably my biggest concern, and I think he bikes out of range. He’s 11 and quite the biker. Maybe I’ll try sending my cell phone with him.

  20. Liz C says:

    We use walkies, too… wonderful things that keep me from sounding like a shrew, shreiking for my kids out the door. 🙂 Ours are 11 and 8, and are gradually gaining more freedoms (in responsible groups of kids, not alone). Still, it’s not like when I was their age, and it was perfectly okay to ride my bike 3 miles to the library any time I wanted to. They enjoy a lifting of some restrictions when we visit Grandma (in the same town where I grew up), and are very tolerant of their restrictions when at home.
    But, we have the best dress-up box in the whole neighborhood, so we end up with all the kids over here, anyhow.

  21. Jennifer says:

    As far as bikes go, my son is 6. If we are outside, he is allowed to ride his bike to the corner (barely out of my sight) in either direction. He’s very good about following the rules, and I can walk 2 houses down to see him if he’s out of sight.

  22. Christine's Connection says:

    This question is on my mind constantly now. My oldest just turned 10. I remember what I was responsible for at 10, and that makes me weep – and give her more to be responsible for 😉 We just moved to where she can now take the bus and after the first weeks I started letting her walk to/from the bus stop…alone…without ME! She needs that freedom to build her independance and feel like she is competent and brave and able to handle what comes at her – I secretly watch her every step from the upstairs window 😀

  23. My Twenty Cents Keeps Moving says:

    We don’t live in a good neighborhood, and the street in front of our house is very busy so when my kids want to ride bikes or skate, they go to the church parking lot where my husband works. I am much less willing to let my 9 year old daughter go out alone than I was with my son when he was 9, but that’s partly because of where we lived then. It seemed safer.
    For Everyday Mommy– we use a filter on our computer from AFA. I still monitor very closely what the kids do on the computer but it blocks the bad stuff so I feel better about letting them on the ‘net.

  24. Cris says:

    My kids are past all this being 15 & 17. Wait till you give the keys to the car! It’s the toughest thing I’ve done.
    Some things I did early on…
    When we went to the Fair, Mall whatever. I showed them who to go to in an emergency (security people- is what we called them). Then I would actually back off when they weren’t noticing and wait for them to turn around and not see me and see how they handled it. Once I saw them going for the security people, I would come back into their line of sight. I could always see them but I wanted to see if they would panic. It helped me feel that they would be able to handle things on their own and I think it gave them confidence too.
    I started doing this once they could say their full name and walk on their own. I didn’t do it everytime, maybe twice a year to test skills. For sure I did it at the Youth Fair which was always crowded and I always thought was the perfect place for something to go awry. It never did. Gratefully.

  25. Kendra says:

    My kids (7&5) are allowed to go to either of 2 neighbors houses IF they ask/tell me first. They are allowed to ride scooters/bikes in driveways or sidewalks only, unless a parent or much older sibling is out with them. They also know that as soon as they hear me yell for them they must come immediately. The neighbor kids sometimes come here, too. Seems to work ok so far but I’m sure that in 1 or 2 years they will be begging for more-I’ll jump off of that bridge when I get there!

  26. Sandy says:

    Hi Shannon — we share very similar stories! We live in a cul-de-sac and our kids are older now, but we used our walkie-talkies ALL THE TIME, and “buddy system.”
    Freedom is not the same as when we grew up, that is for sure.

  27. Amy says:

    I often wish I could put the dog’s buzz collar for the invisible fence on my 5 year old. We moved in to a neighborhood where all along our street everyone has a nice expanse of lawn in the back. Everyone has dogs (and kids) and all have the invisible fencing. So you hate to be the a-hole that moves in and throws up an 8 ft. privacy fence, ruining the lovely long expanse of green lawn. But we have to watch kids every minute because they are not contained.

  28. Deb - Mom of 3 Girls says:

    It’s been an issue for us too, especially since a lot of the kids in the neighborhood are either older (and have more freedom) or just plain have more freedom than my girls do. I’ve started letting them go to other kids’ houses if I know the parents (or grandparents in some cases) and if they don’t have to cross the street to get there (or they let me help them across the street both there and back). We don’t have sidewalks (the only negative to our neighborhood) so bike riding only happens when hubby or I are out there with them, so far.

  29. Jeni says:

    I’m looking forward to reading all the comments. Our street is very busy, so safety is very important to us – I’m interested in the suggestions you get!

  30. Nic says:

    Here in the Netherlands kids usually bike everywhere around town (if they live in small town) while in elementary school. As soon as they turn 12 and go to middle school, they usually bike there because we don’t have school bus services. Some of my students bike 6 or 7 miles (that’s like 30-45 minutes) in the morning and at night.

  31. alison says:

    we’ve moved into a pretty small subdivision and the kids have friends scattered here and there. the oldest (9) is allowed to ride w/his friends around the neighborhood or play at each others houses–we know the parents. my next one is terrified of any furry animals, so he stays pretty close to the front porch.

  32. mopsy says:

    Ack! I hate this issue. Hate it. I do not feel like I give them enough freedom. But we live around a lot of teenagers and they drive like chimps on meth.
    I grew up with a lot of freedom. I once rode my bike to our local airport when I was about ten, with my parents blessing. I went there to get candy from a vending machine and to watch planes land.

  33. Esther says:

    When my boys were younger and they had to “go” but didn’t have Dad to take them into the restroom, they’d go together and I’d stand guard outside the door. I eyeballed every single man that walked out of every restroom where we had to do that. Even now I don’t let them go alone. Not far from here, a man was beaten to death in a train depot restroom. I would hope that if my kids are ever jumped like that, one of the ones NOT being bludgeoned will go get help in time to save him.
    As far as riding bikes around the neighborhood, there are too many pervs and too fast moving vehicles going by for us to feel that they’d be safe riding around. Maybe when they’re tall enough to not look so much like kids and old enough to remember to stay out of traffic.

  34. Dawn says:

    We live out in a country neighborhood and my boys love to play with our neighbor boys down the street. They are allowed to ride bikes to the neighbor’s house and vice versa. The other mom and I are friends and we watch out for one another’s kids. Another neighbor on down the street has a great basketball court in his yard and he loves to see out boys playing on it. But when they are down there, they are out of sight range for me. So, when my kids go out like that, I make my older son take my cell phone. He can call me or I can call him and then he has it in case of an emergency. I also make them stay together at all times and call me when they get to the neighbor’s house and when they are about to leave. Walkie talkie’s are a great idea….but we do not have them.
    Sounds bad, but I like my son having my cell phone just in case a strange car stops him. Then he can call me or 911 if need be…I hate that we have to worry like that. I need to stop watching dateline and 20/20.

  35. Beth says:

    Because I am a dog behaviorist/trainer I dont let the kid take the dogs on his own (with or without friends) too many things can happen to quickly and I would hate to have my son (7) have to break up a dog fight.
    He doesnt ride a bike yet (mainly because he doesnt want too) so we havent crossed that path yet.
    But I can remember being 8 and tooling around my neighborhood on my bike alone for hours without any parental supervision. How times have changed.
    So I am no help on the bike riding part…but be cautious allowing a child to take a dog on their own.

  36. Merci says:

    When my son turned, I think it was 12, we started letting him ride on certain streets and always with the walkie talkie. He also had certain streets where it was “sidewalk only” (because people drove too fast) and a couple of main thru streets through the neighborhood he wasn’t allowed on at all. Only recently did he get permission to ride in the adjoining neighborhood and he turns 15 on Friday. My 8 year old doesn’t ride without me yet and won’t until he’s about 12 either.
    I love that Everyday Mommy brought up Internet Freedom. HUGE hot button for me! We currently have a stalker situation in our neighborhood that I believe is tied to the Internet and it’s made me CRAZY. I don’t allow my kids their own Internet access, email, blogs, myspace, none of it. Kids just don’t need it INNSHO. Kids don’t know how much information is too much or that people can pretend to be anything or anyone. We use the Internet in one central room (mine!) and always under close supervision. I’m a little passionate about it.

  37. Jenny from Chicago says:

    Neighborhood Mom Network (it’s really just a street)
    Frequent “check-ins”
    But the most important thing is that they FEAR me and don’t want to suffer my wrath so they follow the rules, wear their helmets, and always come home when they are expected.

  38. Daring One says:

    Oh the fun of boys. No I don’t give my kids freedom yet, and yes I wish I didn’t have to worry about it.
    The walkie talkies are a great idea! I’ll have to save mine for when Laylee and Magoo are older. Maybe I’ll let Laylee take one to school and I’ll camp out in the parking lot so we’ll be in range…

  39. Faerylandmom says:

    I agree about the internet thing. We’re probably going to be more strict about that than we will about neighborhood roaming…
    My oldest is only 4, so we have yet to cross either bridge. I do wish very much that we had no reason to worry…

  40. JP's Mom says:

    My oldest is 6 and we have allowed him to play in the yard without an adult out there, but he is not allowed to be in the street without adults out.
    I really think it depends on the responsibility level of the child as well as the area you live in.
    While you may trust your neighbors…do you trust their teenage drivers??? Our streets our more dangerous because of the teens.

  41. Tammy says:

    I think it depends on the responsibility and maturity of the child. I have 3 boys and I did not let me oldest go off by himself down the street on his bike until about 8. However, with my twin, it was more like 6 when the older brother was with them.

  42. Tania says:

    We have a great neighborhood, and kids are out playing without their parents all the time. My boys (7 and 5) used to argue with me about staying in my sight, riding bikes while I rode or walked with them…I always told them that you can’t always know where bad people may live. Guess what, episodes of a peeping tom in my neighborhood have revealed that he was an unregistered sex offender. Four houses down from our house…he was arrested for the second time tonight. You just never know.

  43. Erin says:

    My solution – I have to go! I am too paranoid to let my little girl (7) ride in the neighborhood by herself. So…the dog and I walk along with her. Our neighborhood has a good bit of traffic so I worry too much to let her ride by herself. There are some kids younger than mine who ride by themselves though! I would probably do the walkie talkie thing if she was a little older. 🙂 Great idea!

  44. jean says:

    I’ve tried the walkie talkie thing and it failed. He didn’t even get to the corner and we lost contact. But now that he’s older and more confident he’s allowed to walk to his friends house. I sometimes feel so over protective and I need to let him grow up. No one told me about this part of motherhood.

  45. Lisa @ The Preacher's Wife says:

    I’m ROLLING…I thought I was the only person in the world with the 2 way radios..
    We live in a tiny town – Hubs pastors the church next door. I’ll let my 12 and 10 year old stay home when I have to run short errands to the church but – only if we have walkie-talkies. At this age, they aren’t too opposed, but then they don’t have friends around either.
    Tell your boys they really don’t want to get in to ‘having your people call their people’…it’d be much more embarassing with your posse of mommy bloggers in on the deal..:)

  46. jenn says:

    ok this was hard for me. my oldest son is 9, a very mature 9, and im not saying that because he is mine, i am saying it because people compliment me on that fact all of the time. we live in a really quiet kid friendly neighborhood, we just moved into, in april. we bought our first house woot! anyway, everyone here has kids his age, some two years older and some two years younger, we also have a 5 year old. my thing is this, they can go TOGETHER and usually they are not alone, these kids travel in a pack. my oldest son has a cell phone, only for times like this, my youngest carries the walkie talkie for backup.. there is minimal traffic here, and everyone drives slow because of all of the kids. also we taught our kids really young about strangers, and more importantly adults in general. if anyone, even if you know them were to ask you in their house, or car, you have to call us first, i talk to the parent, then we will see.. my kids fear me, and they fear what would happen if they broke these rules LOL. i wasnt too sure about this whole idea when we moved here, im really protective and we lived on a busy street before with few kids. we are really blessed with this neighborhood, but we also take precautions, because, anything could happen, anywhere. my kids also know, they have to check in with my physically if they are going to be out for a long period of time… just because i can call them, doesnt mean they are where they should be or doing what they should be. also all the parents in this neighborhood are awesome, we all check in with each other, are they at your house?yours? etc. also it is not incommon to see kids ride all over town on their bikes. we are blessed to live in a safe town, surounded by great people but of course it only takes one bad apple, so i think teaching your kids certain safety measures etc is oh so important!

  47. mmclassics says:

    Our son is 11. This is the first year that I have allowed him to enter any men’s restrooms alone. The location is key. I may still look for the “family restroom” in when possible.
    I still won’t let him leave my sight biking, or walking. We live in town on a corner, on a through street. While we used to feel somewhat safe about the neighbors, that was completely lost when the responsible 10 or 11 year old girl was murdered one mile away last year. (She was lured by the promise of seeing puppies. My kids 11 and 7 KNOW that is a big warning.) There is only one park that I want them riding in so far, because I can see them on all but 1 or 2 seconds of a complete circuit. I HATE their loss of freedom, but the loss of one of my beautiful children would be much worse. (My kids have no idea of – my freedom growing up. “Come back when you hear the bell.”We really did know all the neighbors and I always told them where I would be.)
    Computer use – only approved websites – in the kitchen – with an adult present. That means a couple of silly kid and game sites. Some research is allowed – same rules. They might see some youtube videos from approved sources. NOTHING from MYSPACE. Right now, they don’t even have their own email addresses due to indecent SPAM.

  48. Don says:

    My boys are 1 and 3, I’m working on a time machine to take them back to the 70’s when I grew up and rode bikes MILES away from home without thinking twice about safety. I’d sooner drop them into the time machine alone and play around in the seventies than let them out of my sight today.

  49. Gego says:

    I am so sad to write this. When I was a child, many years ago, we wandered all over the neighborhood on our bikes. If a neighbor in the area (we all KNEW the snitches) saw us too far form home or getting into a distant neighbor’s pepper patch, my Mom received a call, which was followed by a call from me to apologize to the property owners, especially the one where we “stole” and ate green peppers fresh of the vine. Walking to school, sneaking to the Barg’s store for a huge dill pickle for a dime, then sneaking back to school for the rest of recess and the requisite sharing of the dill pickles. Of course, our Moms were at school volunteering and knew EVERYTHING we did or the secretary would call our Moms and report our indiscretions.
    I NEVER locked my bike to anything. We didn’t even have a key to the house. Spending the night with Miss Georgie and Mr. Terrell Powell and their weimeranger (sp). They had no children and I was sorta adopted. One of the greatest memories of my early years is having Mr. Terrell Powell, the Principal of Hall High School,hand me my diploma at graduation from high school, giving a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek, then, the tears in his eyes, Miss Georgie’s, and mine.
    Times have changed. I am so thankful you Moms of today have your child/children’s safety utmost in your minds. Times have changed. So sad. As a Grandmother, I would love to hear of the adventures and explorations of my GRANDS without the requirements of instant communication. All we had to worry about were the SNITCHES!

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