A Boy and His Bike


Last week, a 12 year-old boy was killed when he lost control of his bike and flipped over a stone wall.  This happened in Wilton, Connecticut, about 5 minutes from my office.  The boy had been riding down a hill with his friends, probably enjoying the wind in his hair and the sun on his face.  According to the news report, he may have been picking up speed going down the hill when he turned back to look at his friends, hit something at the side of the driveway, and lost control of the bike.  He went airborne over the stone fence, crashing head-first into a cinder block behind the stone wall.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet, but the news report said that it wasn’t clear if a helmet would have saved his life.

This is so very tragic and hits so close to home for me.  The boy, from neighboring Weston, Connecticut, played basketball for his middle school team and loved baseball.  The article said that he was well-liked at school.  This could have been my son…any of our kids.

Children, and at 12 years they are indeed children, crave independence – the freedom of a bike ride on a beautiful summer day.  Being out and about with their friends and away from their parents watchful eye. I remember being 12 years-old.  I remember riding my bike everywhere the summer that I turned 12 – to the park, to friends houses, to the strip-mall for ice cream or a soda.  That bike represented freedom to me – the ability to get from Point A to Point B without a ride from my mom and to travel a little farther away from home than I could walk…and in 1979, no one wore a helmet.

Not much has changed since ’79, except the helmet law – I am sure that at some point, my son is going to want to hop on his bike and speed away from me.   As a parent, you have allow them these small tastes of independence.  But with freedom, comes choices – the choice not to wear a helmet, the choice to ride fast down a steep incline, and with a pre-teen’s sense of immortality and natural inability to envision consequences, that can spell disaster.  And in the case of the Weston boy, it did.

So what do you do? Wrap your kid in a bubble? Never let him or her out of your sight? Pepper them with constant reminders to “slow down!” and “watch out!” and all the “what if’s” that will make them completely paranoid about the outside world?

Or do you just cross your fingers and hope that luck, or a guardian angel, is riding alongside them?



8 comments on “A Boy and His Bike”

  1. This is such a tragic, heartbreaking incident. Wait until your kids start driving! There is nothing but luck at work when they return home safely, in my view. Even if you teach them every rule there is, someone who is not that well-trained can come along and ruin everything. Accidents happen and they make no sense. I am thinking of the poor mom who was sitting in her East Haven house with her two kids and a freaking plane came along and crashed into the house. She lived, they did not. How do you EVER find a way to deal with that?

    Long ago, I stopped saying, “Be careful,” to my kids, because it’s so annoying and obvious: “DUH, Mom! If you didn’t say that, I would have been reckless for sure!” Now I say, “Be safe.” That makes me feel better in a kind of superstitious way, and it doesn’t make them feel overly sMothered. It’s definitely an OCD kind of ritual for me at this point, and I can’t say it as often as I would like to the grown up kids!

    But ultimately, the world does whatever it does, and all we can do is have faith in some good luck prevailing. Scary, isn’t it?

  2. I have a 12 year old son who this year has starting riding his bike to camp with his younger brother. I believe that I have given them enough guidance, the rules of the road, the rules of biking, to give them that daily ride (1 mile each way) to and from camp. Every once and a while, I hunt them down to ensure they are following the rules we have established and I’m happy to say they have passed every time. Do I know if they are following them every day? No, but I know I’ve scared the crap out of them about bike injuries. At some point, we have to begin to let them be independent because eventually they will both leave my house and I want to make sure they can act appropriately when I’m not around. I just remember how much freedom I had at 12 and while my kids will never have that freedom, I do believe they need to have some freedom – and I’m starting to allow them to have some.

  3. This just perfectly summed up motherhood …especially of boys. I just recently let my kids start riding their bikes up and down our street in a small beach community in Old Lyme, CT without me. Last week they were riding their bikes literally next to a man with a gun who was pretending to be a cop and had an arsenal of weapons and ammo…..
    It’s impossible.

  4. So tragic.
    The way I see it, we can’t cover our children in bubble wrap or keep them safely in the house for their whole lives (as much as we may want to!). But we can arm them with information and a healthy dose of knowledge (read: fear) of the inherent risks in biking, hiking, walking down the street, etc. A friend of mine in CA teaches bike skills to grown-ups, to keep them safe on the road. I would want to find something similar for my child, so that she knows not only to “slow down” and “watch out” but really what are the best practices for bike riding. Like, always look in the direction you are going? I don’t know myself, which is why I’d want to find an expert. And then, have an agreed-upon set of rules that are a requirement for bike riding. “You can ride bikes with your friends as long as you …” I’m picturing this as a precursor to rules about driving.

  5. Ohhhh how incredibly sad. This is literally my biggest fear in life, that something will happen to one of my children. The worst thing imaginable. I tend to think you have to just have faith that your child will be fine if they have learned to make good choices, but I try to just not think too much about the what-ifs because it’s too terrifying. So, so sorry to hear about this…

  6. The news is so tragic – I have a friend who lives just steps away from where it happened. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the entire community.

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