question for parents of kids who commute
My son (age 15) has been riding in the city since he was 10. I am confident in his skills as an urban commuter. But he is still 15. And drivers are still drivers.
I ask for a text when he gets where he is going, and a text before he leaves for home. But he is terribly forgetful. For example, this morning he walked out the door with his helmet, bag, and cycling shoes, but no bike. haha
When he forgets to text me, I worry. Sometimes I call where he is going to make sure he is there. Am I being paranoid? Should I assume “no news is good news”? How do other parents handle this?
Can’t you enable something on his phone so you know where he is at all times? Or maybe hire someone to follow him around. Or, cheaper, put a sign on his back, telling people who see him to text you his current location.
JK, Sarah. It’s just that I remember 15 and freedom to move around without your mom knowing where you are at all times is part of growing up. I took a long (for me at that time) bike ride, called my mom from Sears to let her know I was OK, and then she drives to Sears to pick me up. Although I had already moved on and came home later that afternoon, having experienced bonking for the first time. Anxiety all over the place, what a mess.
One time mom got me and my younger brother tall flags that attached to our rear axles so cars could see us coming. The drag was tremendous. This was when I was reading whatever bike stuff I could get my hands on and desperately jonesing for a light, fast bike. The flags didn’t last long.
Just relax. He’ll be OK, you’ve undoubtedly instilled some of your toughness and strength into him.
It seems like expecting a text every time is setting yourself up for guaranteed stress. Fifteen year old kids have ridden bikes outside for decades and only recently has technology allowed parents to continuously monitor them. Those parents of years past likely weren’t more stressed out by this. Instead, they probably suffered less stress.
While I’m not a parent, it does seem that helicopter parenting can snowball out of control, with the stress of constant vigilance leading to more stress, stress to which more vigilance is the attempted solution.
Hopefully that didn’t come across as criticism toward you. It is meant as a comment on the topic in general rather than on you in particular.
I’m not there but I will be. Just getting my daughter into riding (about a mile) to camp/school. For the foreseeable future (she’s 9) she will only ride along with an adult.
In terms of whether I’d worry, I think it’s very circumstantial. How far is he going? What route? What weather? What time of day?
That said, you have to have some ground rules. And if simple rules aren’t remembered making them looser and more complex ain’t going to work. This isn’t a particularly onerous rule. Anyone who tracks their rides does just about the same thing. I guess, I GUESS, if there are one or two safe routes he rides all the time you could exempt that, but generally, c’mon, just text, it’s not that big a deal.
You could offer that if he can’t remember to text that you could set up an app to track him by his cell phone AT ALL TIMES. I think most smartphones would let you install an app for this. That should be a good motivator.
A slight aside/derailment. I’ve wondered if any of the ride tracking apps support a “where’s waldo” feature. If any calls while I’m riding could get an automated text response with some gps coords and a live link to a map. Kill two birds with one stone.
We have AT&T family map but it doesn’t work for shit. You have to have both WiFi and GPS running — I turn both of these off myself to save battery, so I don’t blame him when it can’t locate his phone. I could try a different app I suppose, but even then he has to remember to enable it.
I don’t ask for a text every time he leaves the house. Just when he is biking. He is going from Frick Park to the Point, so it’s not an easy route. He knows what he is doing. But like all of us, drivers hassle him. Yesterday someone yelled “bikes are for sidewalks” while passing with 12″.
When I first learned to drive I had to call home (had to find a pay phone). I don’t think this is helicopter parenting, but maybe I am just blind to it?
I have two girls (ha-ha, 29 and 23). I am with Jon. We (my wife and I) usually asked about general place of visit, time when they are coming back. They had their phones and some numbers on speed-dial. That is about it.
I think it is part of human nature to test boundaries. I think any 15 year old will misunderstand the value that you place on knowing his whereabouts, and the reasons why you feel that “need to know.”
What is your goal? To monitor? That implies that you don’t trust, or are unwilling to give him freedom (or I suspect that is how he would see it). To protect? How? By knowing that he detoured to check out some cute girl, or ??? for a few minutes? Knowing he is 20 or 30 minutes late is one thing. Using that to start backtracking his route in case he’s been injured or ??? might be another.
Can you compromise? Invest in a RoadID bracelet. Mine looks like one of those “LiveStrong” type rubber bracelets. It will have his name and contact information. If anything happens to him, first responders, etc. will know how to reach you. Then, assume that he might remember to text you, he might not. But, let him know that if he is more than xxx minutes later than you expect him to be, you will be calling/texting his cell phone every 5 minutes until you make positive contact.
The idea is to create positive contact with him to ascertain that he is ok…..not actually to check on his location, right? Remembering back to my teen years, I’d rather have been “coping with” an excessively nervous parent than one who wanted to monitor my whereabouts and doings at all times.
Maybe a clarification (with your son) on what you want to know, and why, would be helpful. Will you have similar requirements when he turns 16 and (presumably) gets a drivers license?
He lost his RoadID. I tried that.
This is a safety check only, my only goal is to know he made it from point A to point B w/o being hit or having a major mechanical.
I trust my kid completely. He knows this.
Luckily (or not) he loves biking and hates driving. I am going to insist that he learns how to drive since I think it is important but I may have to bribe him with a bike when he gets his license! :)
It sounds like you trust him and he has the basic skills to arrive safely under normal circumstances, so assuming he’s really forgetting and not “forgetting” to text you, text him a quick “u ded?” if he maintains radio silence for too long and your stress levels get too high and he’ll respond. I’d save it for the less common routes though and just take a deep breath for the common cases.
I like the direct text better than the calling someone else to make sure he’s there angle because it makes the “I’m not a baby” argument short and just between the two of you and there’s no “now so and so thinks I’m a baby.”
To your learning to drive analogy, if he’s been doing this for 5 years now, you are well past the learning to drive phase and more in the let me know you got there OK because this is your first time driving the turnpike phase.
Make sure the ICE number is in his phone so you do get a phone call if something does go wrong.
If you figure out how to get them to use that part of the brain that let’s them never forget their cell phones for something else, please post it.
FWIW, I use the road-id iphone app and think it’s useful for when I’m riding solo, to let folks know where I am in case of emergency. It creates a breadcrumb trail by uploading a gps coordinate every now and then, it sends your contacts a link to a map to track your ride, and if you stop you can enable an alert (in case of a crash, it will text your points of contact) unless you cancel the stop alert.
BTW, there are alternatives to Road-ID bracelets, which are harder to lose. For example, there’s a Road ID that attaches to the shoe, and a Strap-ID that attaches to the helmet strap.
Also, you could put some sort of ID on the bike itself, which would also be useful if it gets stolen and recovered. That’s the only way the police figured out the name of the guy who died on Beechwood a few years back — he wasn’t carrying any other ID, and it wasn’t until a bike cop got back from vacation that they figured out to contact the Gatto bike shop, where he bought his bike, to track down his name.
Update, he finally remembered to text me at lunch, and he is fine.
Good idea on other forms of RoadID. I am going to look into this for me too.
A simple text, “Ping?” with a “Ping” response within 30 minutes or so, is all I’d request and expect.
I’m not a parent, but I like Stu’s “ping” approach since it simply lets you know he is ok, while not nagging him for taking a detour.
Not to be gruesome, but I also think that your ID should be something you wear like a bracelet or pendant since your helmet, bike, etc are less likely to be transported to the ER in a situation where it would most be needed. I bought (literally) dog tags from an internet pet store that allows you to print a few lines of text on any number of shapes and colors of metal tags. I decided to include my name, PA license#, two emergency phone#’s and blood type for $5 or so. So buy a few tags and make several different bracelets he wont mind wearing and attach the tags. I made mine from a simple piece of elastic I bought at a fabric store and sewed the tag to it. The folks in trauma rooms cut everything off of you and will notice the dog tags much faster than a slip of paper in your broken helmet or backpack that was left at the side of the road.
A simple text, “Ping?” with a “Ping” response within 30 minutes or so, is all I’d request and expect.
You are breaking “the protocol”. :) Answer should be “pong”.
We left at discretion of our daughters to send a ping (or keep-alive). But it was required if they were getting late.
haha, if he could remember to send me a ping or pong or dong or whatever I wouldn’t be in this mess. :)
I text him but he forgets to check his phone and/or has his phone on silent. He didn’t look at his phone until lunch today. As soon as he did, I got a text.
All valid points about the IDs. Thanks guys.
sorry, wrong protocol
At 15, I was doing stupider things than riding a bicycle… If you can get him to stick to a curfew, and generally keep you informed of where he is going… you are already ahead of the game. Calling/texting is just icing on the cake.
I probably mentioned this before but I used to forget to text Colin when I got to the start of group rides. Now we use the find my friends app on our iPhones. If I forget, he can look to make sure I got there safely. He also has it set to alert him when I am in the neighborhood so that he can put the dogs in the back yard so that they don’t jump all over me when I walk in with a bike.
He still worries about me being out on the road. I worry about him being in the woods.
AT&T family maps doesn’t work for crap. Plus it is $10/month. I am going to switch to another family locator app for Android. Apparently Google+ does this.
FWIW, with my Nexus 7 LTE tablet, I just go to the Android Device Manager page, and after logging in with the same Google id I used for the device, it shows me where my device is on a map, with options to ring, lock, or erase. No monthly charge, no special app required. It works as long as either Wi-fi or cellular is turned on and has a signal.
@ stefb He still worries about me being out on the road. I worry about him being in the woods.
I worry most about you guys when you are together.
Stef just worries that Colin wandered into a bike shop… I think they are running out of room.
I was a freshman in high school the first time I ended up in an ambulance unconscious. I didn’t have a cell phone or road ID or any of that crap. They still got in touch with my mom.
Perhaps I have a more blasé view of life, but if I die I die. If I die cycling, I die doing something I enjoy. If I’m hurt enough that my accident is going to be fatal, I’m probably not going to be in a condition to care or have awareness that my family is around when I’m dying.
I’d put more effort into having loving relationships that matter than worrying about people close to me dying and trying to make sure I’m notified *when* they’re dying or notified every time they’re not. I’m not a doctor. If they get hurt, I can’t help them. All I can do is try and enrich their life and enjoy their company while they’re alive.
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