When I was a kid, I had a lot of freedom in my neighbourhood. I had quite a few friends who lived close by, and we’d play street hockey or Kick the Can, or build tree forts or snow forts, or we’d climb the walls (literally)(gymnasts, we were). I walked to school, and I biked everywhere else. I lived in a quiet, small town, and I always felt safe in my neighbourhood. We had one questionable neighbour, but we just stayed away from his house.
The school I went to growing up was only about a kilometre away. If that. It was very close. (Okay, so Google Maps says it was only 650 metres.) The girls’ school is much further, about six kilometres. I drive them every day, as the buses stay only in the neighbourhood of the school. (We’re allowed to pick the school our kids go to, without lying about our address.)
Kaylie has been begging for the privilege to bike to school by herself. I was kind of leery about it, and I was curious if I was the only one being an overprotective parent. I put a post on Facebook the other day saying, Would you let your 11-year-old bike 6k to school by herself? Asking for a friend. It got a lot of responses. All but one said NO! And the one that didn’t say no didn’t necessarily say yes.
We don’t live in the most awesome neighbourhood, but it’s not horrible, either. I’m fine letting the kids play in the yard, but there’s no way I’d let them go to the park by themselves. This is partly due to the fact that Liliana is a lot for Kaylie to handle on her own and partly due to the fact that needles are routinely found at the park closest to our house. I like to be there with the kids.
At the same time, though, I want to give Kaylie freedom. Responsibility. Trust. Self-confidence.
I’ve been wanting to bike to the school with the kids, but Preston has been up so much at night lately that I’m just exhausted in the morning. I don’t have the energy to bike 12 kilometres while towing three kids. But Kaylie built a plan that was going to work: We would bike with her to a corner store half-way between our house and the school where she’d meet her friend E, and the two girls would bike together to school. That worked. I was comfortable with that.
So this morning I was looking for the garage keys and couldn’t find them. I texted Noah and he said that Kaylie was the last one to have them. She couldn’t find them either, so I sent her outside to search. She found them in the back yard. I went with her to the garage to get the bikes and the Chariot, but when we walked in, Kaylie’s bike wasn’t there. Nothing else seemed to be out of place, just Kaylie’s bike was missing.
I wasn’t about to get mad at her. This seemed like a pretty rough natural consequence, I wasn’t about to make it worse. I did explain to her, though, that this is why we always remind her to lock the garage. And why she needs a good lock for school. Noah was on his way home anyway, as I forgot the Chariot in the back of the van, so he picked all of us up and we drove through a few alleys to check for her bike before dropping Kaylie with her friend as planned. Only, they walked to school, instead of biking.
Noah texted me later, saying that if he’d parked in the garage instead of the driveway, this wouldn’t have happened. And I replied that I saw that the shed was open last night and was going to text Noah to close it when he came home, but I didn’t, because there’s nothing of value in the shed, so it didn’t really matter if it was open all night, but if I had mentioned something about the shed, he likely would have checked the garage, too, and likely would have seen the garage keys where Kaylie had left them.
So, this just kind of sucks. And makes me feel a bit violated. Like when our van was stolen, it was weird to drive it when we got it back. The weird thing is that Noah’s Kona was sitting just beyond where Kaylie’s bike was parked. If this thief had been smart, or had known anything about bikes, he would have taken the Kona too. I spent five years working in a bike shop, and I know that it is rare to get a bike back after it is stolen, but I tweeted at the Saskatoon Police to see if it was even worth reporting. (If any business wants to know how to properly run a Twitter account, the @saskatoonpolice would be a great example to follow.)
They said to please report it, something about crime stats, so I did, and since the bike was taken out of the garage, it was technically a B&E, so an officer came by. Liliana was STOKED. She held the officer’s hand to the back yard and, after looking her up and down, said excitedly, “Are you a police girl?!”
The officer was great with Liliana, and answered all her questions. After I gave my report, Liliana watched the officer walk to her car, and then said, after seeing that it was a police car, “Look, Mama! She is a police girl!”
I did all I could do. I reported the bike stolen and I put posters up in our neighbourhood offering a reward and saying that we wouldn’t ask any questions, that Kaylie just wanted her bike back. I don’t know what else to do.
Kaylie’s handling the loss of her bike like a champ. I mean, she was quite upset this morning, understandably, but this evening, when she usually goes for one of her bike rides, instead of moping around, she found something else to do. Without being encouraged to do so. I was quite impressed with her maturity.
The fixer in me wants to just buy Kaylie a new bike. But the teacher in me wants her to learn a lesson about responsibility out of this. I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I do know there’s no way a new bike fits into our budget right now. I mean, even if I were to agree to buying a cheap-o bike, which, after five years in a bike shop, is like a guy who used to work for a Mercedes dealership buying a Kia. I just … I know too much.
It’s really too bad, two weeks into The Snow-less Season. But I’m sure we’ll figure something out, probably something that involves me swallowing my stupid bike-snob pride and something that involves Kaylie working her butt off so she can earn a new bike, which will help her to understand the value said bike and therefore will let this not happen again.
As she was giving me a good-night hug, she said to me, “I really miss my bike.” I felt so bad for her. I know it’s “just” a bike, but to her it was transportation. Freedom. Independence.
*Sigh* I really hope we find it.