When I was a kid, say, 8 or 9 years old, there were a rash of “I’ve got candy – get in my car” snatchings. Or at least that must’ve happened at some point. We didn’t have the constant media onslaught but everyone in all the schools were taught not to talk to strangers, not to take candy or puppies or anything else from strangers, and to run and tell an adult if something weird was going on.
Quite frankly, my friends and I (there were quite a few of us in this age group on my block) never got questioned or approached once by an adult who didn’t want to know which way to turn to get to the supermarket, or what the hell road they were on.
And if there was one piece of advice we were much more interested in, it was Avoid Stray Dogs. Because when you’re four foot tall and less than 100 lbs, a stray Laborador is freakin’ huge.
My folks did freak when I missed the bus and walked the five blocks home from the elementary school by myself, but we all lived through it. They freaked because I wasn’t on the bus, more than because I could get kidnapped. I think I was eight, or maybe nine. I had already been allowed to bike up to three blocks from my house — which had been the same house my father grew up in, and he’d biked to the next town over by his early teens.
Even once we moved to the sticks, I biked two miles in one direction or another to see friends, go to the grocery store, etc. and we didn’t have sidewalks (or in many cases shoulders on the road) or helmets or bike lights or anything.
My kid sister (to my knowledge) rarely if ever biked to a friend’s house and rarely if ever walked home from school. Yes, it was partially because we were in the middle of freaking nowhere, but it was also partially because you just don’t let your kids do that had already set in.
I applaud this mother for letting her kid learn and explore his world. He knows she trusts him (he probably also knows the consequences of betraying that trust) and he knows more about his own strengths than a whole lot of kids would otherwise.