How dare you make any decision about our children, ever???

A Peek Into a Free-Range Dad / Helicopter Mom’s Divorce

This cascade of emails between a Free-Range dad and his more helicopter ex-wife is difficult to read. But over the years, many readers have written to me about the same kind of issue, so perhaps there’s some comfort in realizing this is not uncommon. I have changed the names. 
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Dear Free-Range Kids:  I am a divorced father of 4 children (all adopted) 13, 12, 10 and 8.  My oldest is Sam,  seventh grader in a small Midwestern town.  Fairly active kid running cross country and track, singing in the show choir, Pokemon club, has his own Ipad.  Watches his younger sisters on occasion for me when I may be gone with one or more of them for an hour or two.  Pretty responsible.
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We’ve been talking about him riding his bike to school about a mile away through mostly commercial neighborhoods.  I have him and his 3 sisters roughly half the time and live in a house I purchased about 50 yards away from the house his mother lives in.
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He mentioned it to his mom who he said told him that if he was “hurt or killed riding his bike to school, I will take your father to court and sue him for everything he has.” I immediately called her and as her phone was ringing thought I should dial my emotion back.  When she answered I said, “I think Sam should be able to ride his bike to school”  Her response was that if I let him ride his bike to school she would “never let me hear the end of it.”  I hung up.  I guess maybe that was my way of hearing the end of it.
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Not so fast.  The following are emails I received over the course of the next 4-5 days.  I never messaged her regarding anything more about the bike riding.  The end result was that the day I had him to send to school on May 12 was a day that he had track practice at a sister school across town and he was unable to ride his bike that day.
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I am still intending to let him ride his bike to school the next opportunity. Sam is 6 months from getting his learner’s permit.  I get a sense from his mother that she would prefer to keep him as a little boy as it increases what she sees as her own self value.
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Frank
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Here’s a letter (just one — I couldn’t bear to read or run them all) Frank’s wife wrote about him letting their son ride his bike:
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Frank: It sounds like you will be giving Sam permission to ride his bike to school on Friday, May 12 and any morning going forward that Sam is in your parental care.
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I asked Sam to show me the route that he would take to go to school and then return home. I road behind Sam, observed and and I also took notes.
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The school is 1.2 miles northwest of my house and your house. I have attached a map and marked the route that Sam took tonight. It took him 20 minutes to travel each way.
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To School:
30% of the route that Sam took (he told me that you helped him select this route last weekend) did not have sidewalks. At 31st Street, Sam stopped at the stop sign and crossed over X Avenue ( a rather busy thoroughfare). Sam chose not to use the cross walk that has a light, located two blocks east at X Ave and 26th St. This would have stopped all traffic on X Ave and allowed him to safely cross.
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Next, we took the sidewalk and then went through a parking lot (behind the dentist office) to head towards Pine Pkwy. This parkway is similar to a frontage road. The first half of  Pine Parkway has no sidewalks, then sidewalks begin near the Health Services building, which Sam opted not to use and instead just stayed in the street as cars drove past us. Eventually Sam got on a sidewalk at the pet shop  corner. Then Sam stopped at the light, where there is a crosswalk. Sam pushed a crosswalk button that was to cross over Williams Blvd.
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However, Sam kept looking at the crosswalk for Alison Street (KFC corner). We waited and waited as Sam kept pushing all of the buttons (as cars are coming and going left turning and right turning) until the crosswalk to go over Alison St turned white. We crossed over with our bikes. Then Sam pushed another crosswalk button and it turned white, and we road our bikes over Williams Blvd.
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The letter goes on forensically like this for every inch of the ride. It is so icy and detailed and LONG, it makes my organs shrivel. And it is this line that kills me most:
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So Sam rides his bikes through a very crowded parking lot of cars (whom I fear could back up on Sam at any moment – being only 4’6 and 64 pounds)….
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The son, like the dad, is trying to make the mom see the light of rationality:
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When we arrived back home. Sam says, “See mom, I did not get killed this time, so I should be good the next time I ride my bike to school.”
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I have told Sam that I still do not agree with him riding his bike to school, especially now that I have ridden the route that he took and saw how and where he crosses the streets in an unsafe manner.
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I have told Sam that I will not allow him to ride the bike that I gave him last year for his birthday, since I do not approve of this. I believe that Sam still has the older/smaller yellow bike at your house. Sam will not be allowed to ride his bike to or from school when he is at my home. We have both driven Sam to and from school since August 2015, I see no reason for us to not continue to do so.
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If you decide to allow Sam to ride to school, given all of the errors and dangers described above,  please let me know the night before or on the morning before he leaves. I want Sam to call me when he arrives to school. I will also notify the principal and let her know about Sam possibly riding his bike to school without both parental consents.
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I feel that if you allow Sam to ride his bike to school on these dangerous routes, that this is child neglect and endangerment. This is failure to exercise reasonable supervision of your child.
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How terrible I feel for anyone going through divorce. The thing I suggested the dad remember is that (as explained in “The Righteous Mind,” by Jon Haidt), we make gut decisions in nanoseconds, then spend pages and pages “justifying” our irrational response to anything, in this case, a bike ride.
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Unfortunately, since her fear and rage and bound together tighter than a double helix of divorce DNA, I don’t see any way to change this wife’s mind with arguments and sense. But, I told the dad, you ARE allowed to give your children a normal amount of freedom that children have had since the dawn of time, especially in this era, the safest in human history. (Here are the reassuring “crime stats” on my site).
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And while nothing rational will convince the ex, it’s possible that seeing her son, day in and day out, as a growing, maturing, blossoming young man may do the trick. As much as we are hardwired to protect our kids (and perhaps torment our ex spouses), we are also hardwired to be proud of our children as they grow up and more and more competent.
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And to any of you going through divorce, I wish you much luck. – L

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How dare you make any decision about our children, ever???

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98 Responses to A Peek Into a Free-Range Dad / Helicopter Mom’s Divorce

  1. Abigail Hakala May 30, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    There’s a part of my attention that never really left the comment about this teen being only 6 months from being eligible for a learner’s permit. It’s done – the kid is growing up. The state recognizes that.

    Allowing your child to participate in the world (even knowing the risk) is not child endangerment or neglect.

    Is this really helicopter parenting or just controlling behavior by an individual struggling to effectively co-parent?

  2. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    “…(whom I fear could back up on Alex at any moment – being only 4’6 and 64 pounds)”

    I’m a little confused here. I assume Alex is the youngest kid? Is she going to be riding with Sam? That hasn’t been mentioned elsewhere in anything posted here. If that’s part of the bargain, I think that’s relevant.

    Incidentally, I don’t know where these people live, but where I live it’s illegal for anyone over 12 to ride on the sidewalk.

    Also incidentally, how the heck does it take 20 minutes to bike a mile? I can walk that fast and I’m not a terribly fast walker.

  3. Workshop May 30, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    The dude’s got my sympathy.

  4. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 10:21 am #

    And another incidentally, what state allows kids to get a learner’s permit at 14? Maybe I’ll move there. In Illinois you have to be 15. Of course, Illinois also doesn’t let kids stay alone until they’re 14….

  5. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 10:26 am #

    Okay, wait, now I’m even more confused. Sam is only 4’6″ and weighs 64 pounds? My eight-year-old daughter is taller and heaver than that. If he has some sort of growth disorder, that may be at least part of the explanation for mom’s protectiveness.

  6. BL May 30, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    “Eventually Sam got on a sidewalk at the pet shop corner. ”

    An iguana could have come out of the pet shop and eaten Sam!

  7. Jetsanna May 30, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    It takes longer to bike a mile than walk?

  8. Jessica May 30, 2017 at 10:41 am #

    Divorce can do awful, awful things to people. And it’s terrible that in so many cases– like this one– the kids bear the brunt of it.

  9. Jessica May 30, 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Yeah some of the details are fuzzy. Is he a tiny little 13 year old? And they live in a state where he can drive at 14? At any rate, this is a horrible example of marriage gone wrong.

  10. E May 30, 2017 at 10:49 am #

    Yeah, super confusing but most of all, it’s none of anyone’s business but the parents.

    You can look at the Mom’s email (although even that seems intrusive to share) and say she’s being “forensic”, but she’s knows this relationship/kid/setting better than any of us and perhaps she wanted to point out that he actually is NOT riding the bike on this route in a safe manner.

    I am not a helicopter parent, but I can surely imagine a bike riding scenario where I would not permit my kids to ride and probably would advise against it even if they were driving age. Some places are just not good places to ride a bike and place where drivers don’t EXPECT there to be bikes. There are places as an adult I would not choose to ride a bike.

  11. James Pollock May 30, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    When I was divorced, there was almost no argument over money or property. However, the custody fight continued year after year, long afterwards. The local law requires a year between petitions to alter custody; every year, within 13 months of the last time, I’d get served with one. I’d have to take time off from work to go to court, and present my case “nothing’s changed, your honor”. She was so sure she was going to win, at some point she broke into my house and stole my daughter’s birth certificate and Social Security card.

  12. JTW May 30, 2017 at 11:17 am #

    Sounds more like a vindictive woman trying to make life hell on her ex-wife by trying to set his children against him.

  13. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    JTW – that’s an awful lot to assume based on what’s posted here. Sounds to me like she’s just a very protective (perhaps overly so) mother worried about her son who seems quite on the small side and who perhaps doesn’t have the best judgment.

    I don’t know about vindictive, but they both sound rather acrimonious toward each other. He, after all, is the one who aired his grievances publicly.

  14. E May 30, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    @JTW — you can glean all that from selected emails from the ex that disagrees with her?

    Perhaps she believes that both parents should decide a matter like this and she has real reservations.

    I’m married to the parent of my kids and there are still instances where we might disagree about thing related to the kids. Obviously we compromise, but I know there are times where one of us might say “I really feel strongly about this” and the other understands. For example, my nephew was seriously injured in a somewhat car/bicycle accident. He actually hit the car, but his landing on the hood then pavement and fractured his jaw. Our own kid had a similar situation in a pool parking lot but was able to turn his wheel and (only) cause damage to the car door with his handlebar.

    I wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea of my kids bike to school outside of our neighborhood. The roads are not conducive to bike traffic (no bike path or lanes) and people at commuting times would not be expecting kids on bikes on the roads, or cutting thru retail parking.

  15. E May 30, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    The other thing to note is that the Mom was actually open enough to review his bike riding route before making a final decision. She notes where she had real concerns about the route and decision making.

    I’m confused as to what the issue is. Parents disagree. Divorced parents have to deal with this differently than married parents but it can happen to any set of parents. I remember getting super pissed at my husband for allowing our HS son to drive after a snowfall (we live in an area of the country where snow is somewhat rare and plows take a long time to get out to the burbs).

    We found out that he went to his gf’s house (despite not being given permission to do so) and years later he admitted that he’d spun out quite severally on one road. Sometimes you look like the overly cautious parent….but it turns out you are also “right” (for lack of a better word).

  16. Marie May 30, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    she’s knows this relationship/kid/setting better than any of us

    Better than any of us, sure. Better than the dad, though?

    It took the kid 20 minutes because he had to deal with his mom trailing behind him. Not only did he get himself to school safely, he led his mom (and possibly the tiny Alex?) there safely, too.

    The dad has my sympathy…and my encouragement. Keep at it. This kind of independence and responsibility are GOOD FOR THE KIDS.

  17. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    “Better than the dad, though?”

    Maybe, maybe not. We’re not in a position to judge that. We’re only hearing the dad’s side of the story.

    “Alex”, by the way, should be Sam. It’s Sam himself who is apparently smaller than an average eight-year-old (the father does not dispute that).

  18. E May 30, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    @Marie — right, I wrote “better than us”. As far as the Dad? We have to presume she knows the kid/relationship/setting as well as the Dad. We can’t make assumptions beyond that I don’t think.

    Why do you assume that Mom riding behind made it take longer and not heavy traffic or traffic lights, etc?

    And Sam = Alex. Someone forgot to anonymize the entire post at first it seems. So the small kid is the bike rider in question.

  19. Marie May 30, 2017 at 11:45 am #

    …years later he admitted that he’d spun out quite severally on one road. Sometimes you look like the overly cautious parent….but it turns out you are also “right” (for lack of a better word).

    I would say that it looks as if your husband was right to let him do it. Your son spun out, recovered, and was not afraid to drive again. That is a great learning experience.

  20. Loreen May 30, 2017 at 11:49 am #

    I wouldn’t want my 13 year old biking through busy intersections in a commercial zone with no bike lanes. Especially if there aren’t a lot of bikers and people aren’t on the lookout. And no one should be biking in parking lots. I’m an adult and I don’t like biking in those circumstances because drivers in commuting hours are distracted and in a rush. 13 year olds in the 7th grade don’t always have the best judgment and can be very spacey. It would be different in a residential area or one with well marked bike lanes. I thought being free range was about using your judgment and taking reasonable precautions.

    I am not certain who is “right” in this situation but it is very bad judgment to share private emails with internet strangers. What exactly is the father trying to accomplish here? Even if people here agreed with him it doesn’t matter. What matters is coming to an agreement with his ex. Making it an Internet flame war won’t help.

  21. Suzanne May 30, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

    I raised two daughters as a divorced mom. Neither my ex husband nor I had helicopter tendencies. From what I can glean from the emails is “woman scorned” and “now we know why he left you”. This is a conceited woman who is now bitter and vindictive as well. She is utterly without self awareness. I can see her telling her gossip circle, (and you can be sure she has one), how crazy her ex is and how hard she worked with NO appreciation and one day out of the blue, he just up and left.

  22. E May 30, 2017 at 12:04 pm #

    @Marie — well that just goes to show that people can have different opinions.

    When school is closed and the news is asking people to stay off the roads to avoid/reduce causing accidents to which police and tow trucks must respond, the “right” answer is to stay home.

    The fact that he was not mature enough to do what he’d been permitted (drive to a nearby sledding hill, not to his gf’s that included a very steep downhill/uphill) proved that letting him drive at that age with that level of experience was not the right decision.

    The fact that he didn’t hit anything was luck (and due to most people NOT driving as advised). He would have leaned a lesson even if he’d hit a tree or another car, it just would have been a very expensive one.

  23. E May 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    @Suzanne — wow! methinks thou dost protest too much!

    The parents live 50 yards apart — I think we can presume that there must be *some* level of cooperation between parents.

    But boy — you’ve got her “gossiping” while he published her email to the world. Interesting take.

  24. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    “But boy — you’ve got her “gossiping” while he published her email to the world. Interesting take.”

    This. Exactly this. It’s amazing how primed we are to see women as vindictive shrews.

  25. Dean Whinery May 30, 2017 at 12:37 pm #

    Can’t speak to the laws of the Midwestern town, but in California, vehilce law requires cyclists to ride WITH traffic and obey the vehicle code. Although usuallly not enforced, riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal. I was once reprimanded by a police officer fo walking my bike along a sidewalk and in the crosswalk at the taffic light.

  26. Eric S May 30, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    Lol! Sounds to me like a paranoid mom, using her feelings towards her ex-husband (which seems to be contentious) and their children to lash out at him. Again, all about the parent, less of the child. And yet it’s the child the suffers more…in the long run. If Sam is only 6 months from getting his learner’s permit, and his mother is all upset with him RIDING A BICYCLE to school, imagine in 6 months him DRIVING. The mother is going to have a heart attack. lol

  27. Craig May 30, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    This woman needs to be institutionalized for deprogramming and therapy. This kind of thing is very common now sadly.

  28. John B. May 30, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    “It’s amazing how primed we are to see women as vindictive shrews”

    Well, in cases of divorce, some women ARE vindictive shrews; however, the same can be said for some of the men. When it comes to divorce, many couples are not very good at conflict resolution. At least, that’s what I’ve observed.

  29. Shawn D. May 30, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    Others have already mentioned the legality of bicycles on sidewalks, but I’ll chime in and add that in Georgia, you must be 12 or younger to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk (but riding on multi-use paths is allowed). Pushing a bicycle along the sidewalk or in a crosswalk is legal.

  30. Anne May 30, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

    There are states in which learner’s permits are obtained at age 14, for example Arkansas and, I believe, Iowa. “A small Midwestern town” very well could be in Iowa.

    I’m not sure why it’s relevant that Sam is “smaller than an average eight-year-old.” At 4’6” and 64 lbs (assuming mom isn’t exaggerating), he’s only very slightly smaller than my 13-year-old, who is small but not actually the smallest child in her class. We know nothing about the child’s background, except that he’s adopted. Children from some regions of the world can be smaller for their age, as can be children who were premature, suffered from malnutrition at a young age, etc.

    I’m willing to cut the mom some slack when: (a) we’re only hearing one side and obviously the dad is not above sharing this fight with the world, and (b) learning to share custody is stressful and painful. However, the mom (and the dad) need to realize that this is very very minor in terms of co-parenting struggles and they are both fortunate that the other parent is trying to be a good parent and looking out for the children. The mom needs to talk to some other parents who can give her examples of actual neglect and endangerment by a “co-parent.”

  31. Caiti May 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    I am in a similar situation with my ex husband. If their situation is anything like mine, what this is really about is CONTROL. My ex acts overprotective because I have always encouraged our son to learn independence. I bet if I had been the helicopter parent, he would have acted more free range. And this letter sounds like the mom is all about control as well, since she did everything possible to prevent the father from making a decision about their son (telling the principal). My ex used to call CPS on me all the time. Once he figured out that wouldn’t work, he started a misinformation campaign against our son (I was horrified that he wasn’t above using his own son as a weapon) telling him that his mommy was going to be arrested and go to jail and he’d never see me again if I ever let him wait in the car, FOR EVEN A SECOND. Now that my son is 8 he knows his dad lied but is STILL afraid to wait in the car while I run into 7-11.

    Whoever the parent is, feel free to email me if you need to vent. Most people who haven’t lived it won’t understand because it goes against the common belief that ALL parents love their kids more than anything. My email is my name and I use ProtonMail.com

  32. Peter May 30, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    Dean, here in California it’s actually a local rule–I don’t believe there is a state law about riding on the sidewalk. That makes it trickier because Town A may say “No” and Town B may say “Yes” and as soon as you cross from one town to the other, you’re in trouble. You also have situations where it’s legal in certain parts of town as well as a lack-of-enforcement which seems to make it “okay.” I used to ride to work in Anaheim and I would take the sidewalk for a certain stretch because I felt the road was too dangerous. I never had any problems with the local police, but I also rode slowly and carefully and pedestrians always had the right of way in my book.

    That said, sidewalks can be tricky. Besides the squishy people who do not react well to being hit by a cyclist traveling 10 MPH, cars don’t expect fast-moving objects to be on the sidewalk. I look left, see no one, look right, see no one, start to back out, and a cyclist shows up from the left and runs into me because I pulled out right in front of him. That’s what happened to my roommate’s nephew.

    As a cyclist, Mom may have some good points, though. I can’t speak to the intersection of “X and 31st”. If it’s only a two-way stop across a busy intersection, he may be safer going a couple of blocks out of his way to cross at the light. And cutting through parking lots has it’s own issues, as you don’t necessarily have the visibility–that idiot with the big ol’ SUV is blocking your view from a sedan. You need to keep an eye out for stuff that you can’t see–there may be a sedan behind that Chevy Suburban and they may be backing out but you can’t see them and they can’t see you. Riding toward the center can help but you need to be prepared to stop–not swerve, stop. Personal opinion, depending on how busy the parking lot is, he’s safer on the street.

  33. Anna May 30, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    “Can’t speak to the laws of the Midwestern town, but in California, vehilce law requires cyclists to ride WITH traffic and obey the vehicle code. Although usuallly not enforced, riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal. I was once reprimanded by a police officer for walking my bike along a sidewalk and in the crosswalk at the taffic light.”

    This is what struck me too – quite apart from the legal issues, if this lady thinks riding on the sidewalk is safer, she’s wildly mistaken, and I say that as a very frequent cyclist. This is especially true on commercial streets such as she’s describing, because the main dangers there are: (1) drivers pulling in and out of parking lots who fail to stop and do a shoulder check first, and (2) drivers pulling in and out of parallel park, who again, fail to check over their shoulders first. Riding on the sidewalk increases both dangers: first, because drivers may be relying on peripheral vision to detect the presence of the rightful occupants of the sidewalk – pedestrians – who move much slower than bicyclists, and secondly, because the greater clutter of parked cars, etc., between the sidewalk and the street make the cyclist less visible. Quite simply, the safest place to be as a cyclist is where you’re most visible: a driver that sees you will not hit you.

    Although – sidenote – the cop was wrong to reprimand you for dismounting and walking your bike across, since that renders you temporarily a pedestrian, with every right to travel according to pedestrian rules.

  34. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm #

    If he is in fact 4’6″ and 64 pounds (and, again, Dad did not dispute that), then he is in the lower 1st percentile for both height and weight for his age. Normal height for that age ranges from 55″ to 70′ and normal weight ranges from 75 to 150 pounds. I think that’s relevant. He’s very tiny, which would probably mean he rides a small bike, which would be harder for motorists to see. Also, it would very likely indicate some sort of growth disorder, which, again, might account for Mom being more protective of him.

  35. Anna May 30, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    “And no one should be biking in parking lots.”

    If you think for a second, I think you’ll see this can’t be right. At least in my part of the world, there’s generally no way to reach the entrance to many public buildings (e.g., stores, churches, schools, libraries) except from the parking lot. I bike to those places, so I must bike through parking lots to reach many of my destinations. The key is to be hyper-alert and to ride right in the middle of the traffic lane, just the same as if you were driving a car, and NOT off to the right-hand side.

    Rather than saying cyclists can’t bike through a parking lot, seems it me it would make more sense to say no one should be driving in parking lots at any speed above a crawl, or in any state of mind other than hyper-alertness for travellers of all kinds, given what a parking lot is: a driver/pedestrian interface.

  36. Coccinelle May 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

    If the route the teenager chose is so dangerous, why not teach him a less dangerous one instead of forbidding him totally?

    But I agree with some commenters here, there is plenty of places that I would never ride my bike as an adult, and I certainly wouldn’t want my child to ride either. I would not even want my husband to ride there even though I could only try to convince him it’s dangerous.

    There are seriously many places that are safer for a scooter than a bike. But I doubt this mother would let her 14 years old drive a scooter.

  37. Warren May 30, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    Moms threat to sue and accusations of neglect equals vindictive b – – – -. That simple.

  38. Anna May 30, 2017 at 1:41 pm #

    “If the route the teenager chose is so dangerous, why not teach him a less dangerous one instead of forbidding him totally?”

    Unfortunately, with typical midwestern and western urban planning (or perhaps I should say suburban) it can easily be the case that there is no safe route. I know a number of spots like that, including the school my son will be attending.

  39. E May 30, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    I’m always surprised that people here believe that every FR parent with an issue must be correct and the person with an opposing opinion is wrong (at best) or vindictive and other nasty labels.

    The supposed threat to “sue” came via the kid. So we have no idea if the Mom took the kid seriously about Dad allowing him to ride to school when she made that comment (also points out that Dad decided to talk to the kid about it before consulting with the Mom).

    If I was divorced and my ex wanted to allow my kid to ride a bike to the nearest school I would have been 100% against it and probably would have been pretty forceful with my response….which makes sense if you feel strongly about it.

    The views here are basically “Dad’s right, Mom’s a b****”. None of us have seen the route options.

    And guess what — we could probably all SEE the route and arrive at different feelings about how safe it is. That doesn’t make anyone a bad person or parent.

  40. Beth2 May 30, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    This feels like voyeurism and I don’t want to linger. But I just wanted to say: Sidewalks are for pedestrians. Bikes belong in the street because they are vehicles. I don’t know how you can fault someone for “opting not” to endanger pedestrians by riding his bike on a sidewalk.

  41. Eric S May 30, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    I don’t see anything wrong with riding on the sidewalk, as a kid. That’s how me and my friends got comfortable riding on the roads, we started riding on the side walk. As long as your attentive, and give pedestrians the right of way. If you have to stop, stop. Also, not sure what the laws are in the different States, but in Canada, as long as your wheel base is no more than 20″, you can legally ride on the sidewalk, giving pedestrians the right of way. So basically adults on adult bikes are a no no. Kids on kids bikes are ok.

  42. Anne May 30, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    “He’s very tiny, which would probably mean he rides a small bike, which would be harder for motorists to see.”

    Yes, his bike is probably smaller than a tall 13-year-old’s bike, although according to the emails, this kid has a bigger bike that his mom won’t let him ride.

    “Also, it would very likely indicate some sort of growth disorder, which, again, might account for Mom being more protective of him.”

    He is 54 inches tall if the information is accurate. That doesn’t not necessarily indicate a growth disorder. I have short kids who grow late, so it doesn’t strike me as odd. My kids were that size at age 12-13. Your eight-year-old may be taller and heavier, but my tallest kid was six inches shorter and 20 lbs lighter than that at age eight, so my perspective is different.

    I do think that parents sometimes treat smaller kids differently than they would taller kids. One thirteen-year-old looks like a little boy and another a young man, and that’s going to affect how we see them, even if their emotional maturity is the same. This can be tough for taller kids who have unreasonable expectations placed on them and tough on smaller kids who are believed incapable of things that they can manage fine. I do think that the mom may be more protective because he looks like a little boy. I’m sympathetic to her and to the kid.

  43. Eric S May 30, 2017 at 2:16 pm #

    @Anna: When it comes to life, there is NOTHING 100% safe. EVERYTHING has it’s level of risk. It’s life. We can’t hide our kids from it, it would only be detrimental for them in the long run. All we can do is teach and guide them to be smart. The rest is up to them. But if you want to deter them from learning how to be smart and protect themselves, then you can always helicopter/shelter them till they’re 18, at which point they can start learning on their own. That’s like sticking a someone who’s only ever heard of football, to play in the NFL. It won’t end very well for that person. lol The sooner kids learn, the better off they will be. Kids aren’t fragile, nor incompetent. They are built as sponges to absorb EVERYTHING. Children are built at young age to LEARN. Good parents will never prevent them from doing so, no matter how much it makes us uncomfortable. It’s not about us, it’s about our kids’ future.

  44. SKL May 30, 2017 at 2:17 pm #

    The mom followed Sam. Mom should have talked to Sam about what he needs to do differently and when Sam seems to get it, let him go.

    If there are so few sidewalks around, where does this teen ever get to ride his bike?

    Why can’t he walk 1 mile to school? Why be driven every day?

    My kids are 10 and they ride their bikes farther than that, and I’ve never followed to make sure they are doing it right. Part of the way is without sidewalks. Since I know the route, I do tell my kids some things they should / should not do in order to be safe. For example, there is one stretch of road that not only has no sidewalks, but has very fast traffic. I advise my kids to take a different, safer route to the library. We are not done training our kids just because they are big enough to ride a bike, but we have to acknowledge that the kid will eventually go where he wants, how he wants, and we can either give him the benefit of our wisdom or waste it.

    4’6″, I guess he hasn’t entered his growth spurt yet. At least one of my kids is smaller than that, but I have never considered size a factor in independence. More important is whether the kid is aware of her surroundings and has the ability to get herself out of a jam. Emotional maturity is more important than size, in my opinion.

    When I was 13-15, I rode my bike at least 5 miles along country roads (obviously no sidewalks) to a summer enrichment program located in a vo-ed school. I did this rather than take the bus, because I didn’t want to give up my babysitting job, which the bus schedule did not accommodate. The idea that at that age anyone would think twice about bike riding – I never heard of it. We did not ride on sidewalks at all – that’s for “sidewalk bikes” i.e. the little bikes ridden by kids too young to be allowed in the street. A 13yo riding on a sidewalk would be considered inconsiderate. (I do tell my kids to ride on the sidewalks on the busier roads though. They need more experience.)

  45. Eric S May 30, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    @Anne: “I do think that parents sometimes treat smaller kids differently than they would taller kids.”

    When you give children limitations, all they will ever know is they are limited. They grow to have very closed minds. Never a good thing in real life. Which is what they will face sooner than many parents think. And there’s a difference between allowing them to grow, and letting them do whatever they want to do. Riding a bike to school, it’s a good thing. Being disrespectful, not a good thing.

  46. Kirsten May 30, 2017 at 2:25 pm #

    Agree this is a bit confusing and I don’t feel comfortable commenting on the situation between the parents and I feel a bit uncomfortable being dropped into that, even if it was a good illustration of the opposite of free range. And yet, I can comment on the bicycle part of it. She makes it sound like the parts where he bikes on the sidewalk are the “good part,” but really you’re not supposed to do that. I learned bike safety when I was around 7 and biked to school. I learned that you bike with traffic, obey all the traffic signals that cars so, signal turns and stopping with hand gestures, don’t ride on the sidewalk, don’t walk the bike through the crosswalk, etc. If this boy is indeed old enough to take driver’s ed then it does seem pretty weird that he can’t ride his bike a mile to school. Also seems weird it would take 20 minutes. The fact he is so small makes me wonder if he’s also developmentally delayed and maybe that’s a factor in his mother’s thinking? I have no idea. There may be other factors here we don’t know about.

  47. Crystal May 30, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

    How can anyone take another person seriously if said person cannot even spell a first-grade word like “rode”?

  48. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    Anne – the fact remains that, if the information is accurate, he is in the lower first percentile for both height and weight for his age (which is 13.5 if he’s six months from getting his permit). Maybe it’s not a disorder, but it’s pretty rare for kids to be that far out of the norm without something going on.

    My older daughter has a friend her age (10 1/2) who has a friend who is about the same size as my younger daughter. It’s very noticeable that this girl is well out of the norm among 4th graders (almost 5th graders). If she were a 7th grade (almost 8th grade) boy, the size difference would be huge. All of the middle level boys at my daughters’ school are taller than me, most significantly so. I’m 5’2″.

  49. E May 30, 2017 at 3:17 pm #

    Perhaps someone who was in a hurry and thought she was writing a private email to her ex, not a post for commercial website.

    And if we’re casting aspersions, I’m not sure why a Dad would send his kid’s real name into a website. Because either HE didn’t change Alex -> Sam in his cut/paste from her email to Lenore or he felt comfortable passing along his minor children’s names.

    As far as a driver’s license vs riding a bike. There are 100s of local roads I would drive a car where I would *never* ride a bike.

  50. Steve N May 30, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    I don’t think the consensus here is “Dad’s right, Mom’s a bitch.” I think that the consensus is “The free-range parent is right, and the helicopter parent is wrong (and probably a jerk).” What other consensus would you expect at this blog?

  51. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    “I don’t think the consensus here is “Dad’s right, Mom’s a bitch.””

    Well, it’s certainly not a consensus, but:

    –“Sounds more like a vindictive woman trying to make life hell on her ex-wife by trying to set his children against him.”

    –“From what I can glean from the emails is “woman scorned” and “now we know why he left you”. This is a conceited woman who is now bitter and vindictive as well. She is utterly without self awareness. I can see her telling her gossip circle, (and you can be sure she has one), how crazy her ex is and how hard she worked with NO appreciation and one day out of the blue, he just up and left.”

    –“Lol! Sounds to me like a paranoid mom, using her feelings towards her ex-husband (which seems to be contentious) and their children to lash out at him. Again, all about the parent, less of the child.”

    –“This woman needs to be institutionalized for deprogramming and therapy.”

    –“Moms threat to sue and accusations of neglect equals vindictive b – – – -.”

  52. SKL May 30, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    It’s not that unusual for a 13yo boy to be short still. A couple weeks ago at my kids’ band concert, they recognized the 8th graders who were about to graduate. One of them is about as tall as my petite 10yo, so maybe 4’3 or 4’4. When I was a kid, my oldest brother (3.5 years older) was close to my [average for age] height for a couple years, before he shot up in high school. He’s now about the same height as the other men in the family.

    But, if this boy has developmental issues, then shame on the dad for not being straightforward in his post. That’s not fair to both sides. Not that developmental issues automatically mean be protective, but they might in some cases.

  53. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    “It’s not that unusual for a 13yo boy to be short still.”

    Okay, what are people not getting here? This kid is in the *lower 1st percentile* for both height and weight for his age*. That means he is shorter and lighter than more than 99% of boys his age. He is taller than fewer than 1% of boys his age. By definition, that *is* unusual. He’s not just “short”. He’s tiny – the size of an average second grader.

    * Again, the caveat, if the information given is accurate.

  54. Nicole R. May 30, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    To me, it looks like the mom is laying a paper trail to try and take the dad back to court for full custody. If I were him, I’d show it to my lawyer before doing anything.

  55. Anna May 30, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    Eric S.: “@Anna: When it comes to life, there is NOTHING 100% safe. EVERYTHING has it’s level of risk. It’s life.”

    Well aware of that, thanks! And my son (who is 5) has been biking on the street (as the operator of any vehicle should) with me since he learned to ride his bike when he was 4. But the fact remains, sometimes there is no bike route to a given destination that’s safe enough for an adult to use, and all the more so for a kid. E.g., there’s no way to his future school that doesn’t pass through 2 blocks of a busy street where someone gave the public housing authorities to install perpendicular parking such that drivers back across the sidewalk to re-enter the street. (And I hope it won’t upset anyone if I mention that many residents of said public housing development hail from parts of the world with. . . well, let’s say less established and less diligently enforced traffic laws and customs!) I do bike past – taking my life into my hands every time, and trusting to my vigilance – but there’s no way a kid could exercise the amount of caution needed. Also, being shorter, he’s even less likely to be seen.

    Deciding a particular activity is TOO unsafe does not indicate an obsession with perfect safety, thank you very much!

  56. James Pollock May 30, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Whether or not it is “safe” for a child to bike to school can vary immensely. The capabilities of the child are a major factor, but not the only factor. Different areas have different traffic patterns. Suburban housing areas are not the same as farmland or urbanized areas, and commercial areas present several other hazards (notably, drivers who are not expecting to see kids on bikes.)

    So, I don’t believe that “riding a bike to school” = “always a good thing” In many, probably most, cases it is; but in some, it is not.
    (Here’s an example. When I was in 8th grade, I lived on the Oregon coast. Riding a bike to school would have involved first navigating a hillside with a gravel roadway. This would have been followed by about ten miles of US 101, winding through the forest. The road twists and turns, is fairly narrow, and, at the time, carried a chip truck passing by around once every 5-10 minutes. (A chip truck is a semi-trailer full of wood chip waste from the plywood mills in town to.. wherever they were going.) Anyways, the whole highway is 55 which means the chip trucks are going about 70. Then there would be the part riding up and over the actual bay entrance on a bridge elevated enough to allow the bulk freighters to pass underneath. Then a little bit of navigating the neighborhood streets to get to the actual school. And, this is in a place where it rains 300 days a year, meaning limited visibility, particularly on the bay, where the fog likes to settle. No, riding a bike to school would not have been a thing.)

    “Okay, what are people not getting here? This kid is in the *lower 1st percentile* for both height and weight for his age*”

    I guess in my case, what I’m not getting is why this matters? We’re not discussing whether he can play left tackle on the football team, or wrestle as a light-heavyweight. The question is whether or not he can ride a bike to school, which he has been observed to do.

    “To me, it looks like the mom is laying a paper trail to try and take the dad back to court for full custody.”
    Well, at a minimum, it’s being saved as ammunition for possible future use. HER lawyer is probably telling her to document every dispute, but would also likely say “this isn’t grounds for a change in custody.”

  57. Warren May 30, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

    The instant you tell your child that you will sue or pursue any legal action against your ex, you have crossed the line. Crossed from legitimate to vindictive. Rational people do not put their kids in that situation.

  58. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    “I guess in my case, what I’m not getting is why this matters?”

    Do try to keep up – already addressed. It matters because if his size is a result of some sort of medical condition, developmental disability or similar sort of thing, Mom may have long been programmed to be protective, perhaps overly so. Whether or not such (over)protection is still warranted is an open matter (and not something any of us here could know), but it at least indicates that maybe Mom is not intrinsically a “helicopter” parent, but has perhaps become so due to the specific circumstances she has faced parenting this particular child.

    It also matters because even if motorists are looking for cyclists, which is not always the case, especially depending on what “commercial” means, they are less likely to be looking for cyclists who look like second graders.

  59. Michelle May 30, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

    “Okay, what are people not getting here? This kid is in the *lower 1st percentile* for both height and weight for his age*. That means he is shorter and lighter than more than 99% of boys his age. ”

    Except that it actually doesn’t mean that. The growth charts used in most pediatric offices (and presumably whatever you are using to determine this child’s percentile) are notoriously off in their assessments. They are all based on a small group — of white, middle class, formula-fed — children from a narrow period of time. In reality, significantly more than 1% of American children fit in the 1st percentile.

    Like, for example, ALL of my kids. Who are white and middle-class, but were breastfed (which results in smaller babies), and genetically pre-disposed to be small as children and then shoot up. I was in the bottom 5th percentile my whole childhood, but as an adult I’m actually 3 inches taller than average.

  60. Alanna Mozzer May 30, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

    Here’s the simple solution I used when I was a bike riding kid to the problem of cars backing up: a bicycle bell.

  61. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 5:47 pm #

    Even if height charts are off some, they are not off enough to make 4’6″ anywhere near a normal height for a 13 year old boy. 4’6″ is far below the normal range (in fact, it’s considered <1%ile). I'm trying to picture what my 8 year old daughter (who is actually 4'7") would look like in a seventh grade class. I can't imagine. Even among my 10 year old's fourth grade class she's a shrimp (although she's perfectly average among her second grade class). Heck, even at 5'2" I was a shrimp in seventh grade – there were very few boys shorter than me and those only by a couple inches. I really have to question how many seventh graders you know if you think 4'6" isn't abnormally small for a seventh grader.

  62. Dienne May 30, 2017 at 5:48 pm #

    Bicycle bells aren’t very effective when people are sealed in climate-controlled vehicles with earbuds stuffed in their ears and music blaring at hearing-loss-level decibels.

  63. donald May 30, 2017 at 5:49 pm #

    When you ask a child how old they are, sometimes they reply with 4 1/2 or something and a half. That half is very important to them. What I’m getting at is that children want to grow up. My ex was a helicopter mom while I was a free range dad. They resented how she babied them and they respected me from treating them like a young adult. We’ve been divorced for years. The kids are 22 and 26 and they treat us VERY different. I’m sure that their respect/resentment grew from the early years.

  64. Michelle May 30, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

    Also, Dienne, I’m not sure where you are getting 1st percentile to begin with. All the charts I see say 3-5 percentile.

  65. Michelle May 30, 2017 at 5:55 pm #

    If you want to meet a bunch of kids who are / were in the 3-5th percentile until puberty, Dienne, come to my house and meet my 8 children.

    Also me, and my brothers.

    How many 7th graders do I know? Ha. Funny question to ask a mom of many who used to be a teacher and now runs a homeschooling group. Not much experience with kids, me. LOL.

  66. donald May 30, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    It sickens me that when some parents divorce, they often fight though the children. They often try to get their child to side with them and to turn them against the other. This is a common scenario. It doesn’t sound like this one is anywhere near the extreme as what I described. However, I wonder how much of this is a free range vs helicopter issue and how much of it is a fight with the ex though the kid’s issue.

    Children are smarter than most people give them credit for. When a parent is using them to punish the other, not only do they resent it, the motivation is so transparent to them that it usually backfires.

  67. Anna May 30, 2017 at 6:29 pm #

    “Here’s the simple solution I used when I was a bike riding kid to the problem of cars backing up: a bicycle bell.”

    Uh huh. Am I correct to infer that you haven’t biked much as an adult?

  68. Peter May 30, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

    Regarding his 4’6″ height, that might be his height on the bicycle. If he’s riding a racing-style bike, that could be his height (i.e., measured from his back to the ground).

  69. Anna May 30, 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    “Even if height charts are off some, they are not off enough to make 4’6″ anywhere near a normal height for a 13 year old boy. ”

    Well, you know, we can’t all of us be “normal.” I was about 1st percentile in size, from 3rd grade until 10th or 11th grade – there was a rumor going around my high school in 9th grade that I was a 7-year-old “child genius” taking classes at the high school for some strange reason. Numerous people actually walked up to me and my friends at lunchtime to ask me if that was true. I’m now just above average female height as an adult, so go figure.

    Luckily, my parents didn’t think my stature meant they should treat me like a 2nd grader. I can’t even imagine how angry that would have made me.

  70. Steve N May 30, 2017 at 7:14 pm #

    “I don’t think the consensus here is “Dad’s right, Mom’s a bitch.””

    Well, it’s certainly not a consensus, but:

    –“Sounds more like a vindictive woman trying to make life hell on her ex-wife by trying to set his children against him.”

    Dienne, I think you’re wrong about what’s going on. The helicopter parent is a woman so she’s referred to as the mom. That doesn’t mean she’s being dumped on because she’s the mom, or a woman. She’s being dumped on because she’s the helicopter parent. If the roles were reversed here everybody would be railing against the nut job dad who has control issues. It’s not a gender issue. Don’t make it into one.

  71. James Pollock May 30, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    ” It matters because if his size is a result of some sort of medical condition, developmental disability or similar sort of thing, Mom may have long been programmed to be protective, perhaps overly so.”

    Bzzzzt. Nope.
    Even if he does have some sort of medical condition, developmental disability, or whatever, he was observed to successfully make the trip. (And, of course, if he has a developmental disability, he gets transportation to and from school. My next door neighbor has a kid who gets this service.
    My kid was 5th percentile AND as much as a year younger than her grade peers. She didn’t have a medical condition or a developmental disability. She just wasn’t very big.

    “Even if height charts are off some, they are not off enough to make 4’6″ anywhere near a normal height for a 13 year old boy.”
    I started high school at 3’11.5″, somewhere around 130 pounds. 18 months later, I was 18 inches taller. I can assure you I was able to ride a bike successfully.

    “It also matters because even if motorists are looking for cyclists, which is not always the case, especially depending on what “commercial” means, they are less likely to be looking for cyclists who look like second graders.”
    This problem has a simple technical solution, which has been around AT LEAST since I was a kid in the 70’s, and it looks like a 6 foot tall pole attached to the rear of the bike that has a bright-orange pennant on it. Most kids’ bikes don’t come with them, but oscillating flashers are available to improve visibility, too. (There are a LOT of bicycle commuters in Portland.)

  72. SKL May 30, 2017 at 7:37 pm #

    The boy may be smaller than average, but that doesn’t mean his height isn’t “normal” for him right now.

    Let’s say he’s the size of a 9yo. OK so is there something wrong with a 9yo riding a bike? I was riding mine around the neighborhood at 4yo, and I’m pretty sure I was less than 4’6 at the time.

    I dare someone to come and give me a hard time because my 4’4 daughter rides her bike wherever she wants – on the basis of her size. Bring it on! Now if it’s because she rides in front of moving vehicles or tries to run over old ladies and little kids, then that’s a different issue.

  73. SKL May 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

    Besides the whole independence thing, I think it sucks for a 13yo to have to tell his friends he can’t ride his bike to school because his mommy says he isn’t big enough or smart enough.

  74. SKL May 30, 2017 at 7:54 pm #

    Another thing – a kid that size is not likely riding a “small bike.” Any kid who knows how to ride a bike fairly well can ride a regular-sized bike. My kid sister as a petite 5yo could ride full-sized 10-speeds, including getting herself on and off without help. My petite 10yo has had a 20″ bike for years, and 20″ is the size many teen boys ride.

  75. lollipoplover May 30, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    I came to Lenore’s website years ago…because I also was scared of my kid riding his bike to school. He wanted to…our school district cut busses and I was faced with either driving him or allowing him to bike, which honestly terrified me.
    So I started biking with him. There were a number of dangerous intersections. Several other parents along with me requested a traffic study of the dangers- There were quite a few! Because of this, they improved the routes for pedestrians and bikers and we got a dedicated bike path! It’s beautiful, all 3 of my kids have now biked to school for years and they do ride on the sidewalks for a portion of the commute until they reach the bike path.

    There have been falls. One kid crashed into a tree. My daughter just crashed a few weeks ago after turning too sharply. She still has a bruise. I have a bruise too from getting out of my car and not opening the door wide enough. She has a better story with hers…

    This doesn’t have to be a mom vs. dad situation. Find a way to compromise for the sake of your son. Maybe he can bike part of the way or find a buddy to join him. Bike with him a few times and see what it’s really like…that for me was what made me realize that biking to school was awesome. It’s normal to be reluctant or scared.
    I know I was.

  76. James Pollock May 30, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    “I came to Lenore’s website years ago…because I also was scared of my kid riding his bike to school.”

    Watch this bicycle safety video with him:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuOBhxoIl2I

  77. SKL May 31, 2017 at 3:28 am #

    As the mom of a petite kid who is also young for her grade, I used to encourage her to do things younger than others, so she’d be able to hold her own once she went to school. I didn’t want her or anyone else to think her size was indicative of her abilities.

    She does have people thinking she’s on the wrong floor of the school, visiting from the K-2 floor, “how cute.” But, she also holds a school record for running speed, LOL.

    There’s a boy in her class who is huge, literally about twice her mass. He has “anger issues” (has a dad in prison) and gets physical sometimes. Once he tried this on my kid, twisting her arm to hurt her. She told me later, “I pulled my arm away and told him that if he ever touches me again, I’ll be forced to defend myself.” She meant it, too. I sent the teacher an email telling her that my kid has permission to retaliate physically if that boy ever messes with her. So far he hasn’t dared. 😛

  78. mer May 31, 2017 at 6:52 am #

    Learners permits at age 14, at least 6 states, a bunch more at 14yr6mo most at 15yrs

    http://www.vdriveusa.com/resources/driving-age-by-state.php

    I have no input on the mother/father interaction, but will point out that I grew up walking to school, even kindergarten (about a mile away. yes, mom followed me out of sight the first few times to make sure I actually got there) in NJ and I’m still here.

  79. pentamom May 31, 2017 at 7:16 am #

    Dienne, let the size thing go. I was that size at that age — although actually, whoever “Alex” is, doesn’t seem to be the 13 year old.

    Anyway, nothing special was going on. My mother and her father were quite short and my father barely average. There are “short genes” in my family, that ride along with “late bloomer” genes. I was 4′ 6″ at age 13 and kept growing until 19 (which is fairly unusual for a girl), at which point I attained 5′ 3″ (low average for a woman.)

    It is entirely within the range of normal for a child to be that small. A child that small *could* have some kind of issue, but they very well may not.

  80. Robin May 31, 2017 at 8:46 am #

    I too, went through an acrimonious divorce when my three children were all under eight years of age. My then husband left us for someone else (and where we live there is no way I could contest/stop him so no attempt was made), but he was the one who made this an appalling awful experience for all of us.

    For those of you here who are arguing the toss about the kid’s size/safe, not safe or any other issue brought up here, I’m telling you from one who has been there that this is all about power and control (over her ex, her kids and her life in general). My ex took me aside before our first custody hearing (a bit rich he was contesting as he’d never shown any interest in parenting till he met his new love who used our children as a lever) to tell me “I am going to destroy you”. He meant that, but what I didn’t realise at the time was how he was going to use our kids to do this.

    Well epic fail on destroying me, but after years of active brainwashing (as a counsellor told me in the thick of it “you have to realise that [these two adults] are playing happy families; a happy family only has one mother and you are not it”), they did succeed in screwing up those kids so badly that they are incapable of forming adult relationships of their own.

    I feel for this dad who is having to watch this epic train wreck unfold in front of him, and for those kids, especially the younger ones who are no doubt subjected to daily diatribes denigrating their dad. The psychological damage done to children by doing this can’t be fixed IMHO and in a just world this woman would be charged with emotional abuse of her children.

  81. E May 31, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    @Pentamom — “Alex” is Sam. The text (where they list the height/weight) has been changed.

  82. lollipoplover May 31, 2017 at 11:38 am #

    “My ex took me aside before our first custody hearing (a bit rich he was contesting as he’d never shown any interest in parenting till he met his new love who used our children as a lever) to tell me “I am going to destroy you”. He meant that, but what I didn’t realise at the time was how he was going to use our kids to do this.”

    This happens so often! Kids used in divorces to manipulate and punish ex’s. It is so hard on the kids, what they have to go through mentally when they are used as pawns. It ultimately has nothing to do with actual safety but one parent wanting to be in control. These kids get so messed up being put through this nonsense. I wish our child services understood the impact of these mental manipulation games that happen in messy divorces and got these kids the help they needed to deal with controlling/manipulative parents.

  83. James Pollock May 31, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

    “This happens so often! Kids used in divorces to manipulate and punish ex’s.”

    And not always intentionally. Smart kids can figure out what their parents are thinking, even when they try to shield the kids.

    My county requires that parents who file for divorce attend a class on how divorce affects children. It’s largely obvious, but people who are divorcing are often caught up in bigger issues (i.e., why they are getting divorced in the first place) and this can steal focus from the child(ren). (and if there’s violence, it should.)

    If this IS a just about hassling dad by exerting control over Junior (whatever his name is), mom has gone to a LOT of work. Having Junior demonstrate riding to school, following along and taking notes… it seems to me that a bitter mom who just wanted to make a hassle could do so without going to the trouble of following along while Junior does it. I’m not saying it’s impossible, because it certainly isn’t, but I don’t think my ex would have done it. Maybe his ex and my ex are just really different people (although, like all exes of either gender, they’re both crazy, bitter, vindictive, and difficult for the sake of being difficult. Of course.)

  84. Liz May 31, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    I think (and I may be wrong) that this email is from a large number of them, and that the request to ride the bike started when the child was younger/smaller, and that enough time has now passed that the boy is close to learning to drive a car.
    I am pleased to hear that a child knows more about the laws governing where a bike can be ridden than the mother does, as bikes are considered “vehicles,” and are supposed to be ridden in the street, not on a sidewalk.

  85. Mark Sullivan May 31, 2017 at 3:20 pm #

    This issue here is not about transportation or child safety; this is purely about dominance and control.
    Having been through a similarly acrimonious divorce, with the police reports, document burglaries, endless harping and relentless annoyances, I’ve learned that the best approach to this sort of constant conflict is passive-assertiveness.
    If the other party makes it increasingly difficult, or is unwilling to collaborate, the appropriate response is to respect the aversion to collaboration and make clear that, while the kid is on my watch, my rules are in effect–and visa-versa.

  86. Jenni T. June 1, 2017 at 7:36 am #

    So i am not a helicopter parent, nor free range, although one my daughters referred to me as her “loving, hovering mother” in a journal entry, that was written about she l miss when she signs dads document to go live him, and written write before getting an ex parte emergency order claiming neglect and improper supervision, something all “loving , hovering” mothers are usually guilty of….but my point is, DO NOT LET HER SAY THESE THINGS IN FRONT OF YOUR SON. The more you guys disagree, the more likely something terrible could happen, and she could alienate you or your child more likely will push way from her being a teenager and wanting freedom, and try to alienate her. So make he knows the disagreement came from places of love in both your hearts, side no better than the other, normal bickering, like a married couple would do, but if he knows anything about her threats, that should be reported. May sound almost as cold as the threats, but this could escalate to a bad bad place if it isnt stopped now. Believe me I never saw it coming, but the combination of an ex and teenage minds, what a lethal combination, not only did they leave, it completely ruined me. In every capacity. And my childrens futures. Currently dealing with cps for my one remaining child. It seems being sad when the government allows you life to be ruined by an ex very unlawfully and devoid of justice, makes you a questionable parent too. Yet the accusation was , I was told “drugs”. I asked what it was, aftet she gave me the wrong accusation according to the first lady, and she said “drugs”. What heck, i could call and say one word to accuse anyone and everyone with one word? My ex called dfcs for everything, his wife actually and they never opened case, and now that my love kids left it takes is one word and no accusation of abuse or neglect? They just figure they will wreck my youngest too so i will kill myself and family court will live on to make another buck….

  87. Crazy Ca tLady June 1, 2017 at 9:35 am #

    I haven’t read the responses. But….my 12 year old son, and his 9 year old friend have started riding bikes from the friend’s grandfather’s house to my house, 3 miles away. Their trips have gone smoothly. Yep, I have told them to take the less traveled canal road….but that road has very little curb due to the canal on one side and a bank (down) on the other. People DO tend to go over the speed limit on it, like the do on the main road, and it is much narrower. But….kids do ride it.

    My other son I let him ride home from his class at age 12 at the middle school and that was 4 miles away, down a very steep hill that scares the crap out of me. But we discussed breaking techniques (use the back, not just the front) and it was fine.

    Not to appease the mom, but to show that I was a responsible parent I would do the following:
    1. Find a bike safety course, have ALL the kids take it. Get certificates of completion.
    2. As Mom is worried about visibility, I would get EACH kid, one of those tall flags that help the bikes be visible. Heck, I even see adults with flashing lights front and back for visibility, and those are on adult bikes, usually busy roads, so that wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
    3. Then, as Dad, I think I might get or borrow a Go-Pro, and follow him to school on a school day. (I wouldn’t tell Mom of this, I would just do it to have evidence that he was a competent bike rider.)

    Honestly, from reading that description, it sounds like the boy did just fine. Sidewalks are for PEDESTRIANS….not vehicles. Bikes are considered a vehicle. As long as he is riding WITH traffic, using hand signals, and on the side of the road, it should be fine and within the law.

  88. John C. Randolph June 1, 2017 at 9:53 am #

    Dienne, I’m not going to mince words: you’re not doing a kid any favors when you try to bubble-wrap the world. You clearly had an emotional reaction to this story, and you’re making a complete fool of yourself.

    -jcr

  89. Puzzled June 1, 2017 at 10:10 am #

    At what height and weight is one immune from being hit by cars?

  90. Donna June 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    As I see it BOTH parents are using the kid in the middle of a bad divorce. Mom is trying to control, but dad is the one making their fight and her private email to him available for public consumption. So not cool. As a result, I side with neither of them as they both are showing a tendency to suck as parents.

  91. E June 1, 2017 at 1:26 pm #

    @CrazyCatLady — your post is the most useful among this thread.

    I have siblings that ride recumbent bikes and do so on big bike tours each summer (that use a variety of roads). One of my sisters’ bike is so low, that she uses a flag like you describe.

  92. Red June 1, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    13 year olds should not be riding bikes on the sidewalk in most places in the US (unless the sidewalk is actually a bike path).

  93. Colagirl June 1, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

    Mom sure sounds crazy from this email all right but … I used to have a friend who worked in family law. Her rule of thumb wrt divorce was, the person running around airing all the dirty laundry in public, screaming about how unfairly they’d been treated and how bad/evil/crazy the ex was, was usually the one most at fault. Make of that what you will.

  94. Papilio June 1, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

    Yeah. From my point of view, of course a 13-year-old should be able to get himself to school and other destinations instead of being driven, certainly if it’s such a short distance.
    On the other hand, it sounds like the infrastructure is pretty hostile to anyone who isn’t traveling by car, including long waits at pedestrian crossings (might help explain why it took him a whopping 20 minutes). I know I’m spoiled, but I probably wouldn’t want to cycle there either.

    So I can’t tell which parent really is the most realistic here, though I don’t like how mom doesn’t seem to be interested in teaching her child safer ways/routes.

    Funny all that talk about heights. When I was 13, I must have been 5’4″, which was average for a girl. If memory serves, only one boy was clearly shorter.

  95. SKL June 1, 2017 at 5:57 pm #

    My kids are off on their bikes right now … one of them texted me that her sister was running back to get an air pump for her nearly flat tire. She also texted that I should tell Sister to use the “resteroom” when she got home, LOL. Helicopter sister! They are now on some sidewalk somewhere, teaching themselves how to use a bike tire pump. 🙂 I know they will figure it out, because they have money for candy – and they WILL manage to get to the store for that candy. 😛

    Irrelevant, I know.

  96. Travis June 1, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    @Dienne “If he is in fact 4’6″ and 64 pounds (and, again, Dad did not dispute that), then he is in the lower 1st percentile for both height and weight for his age. Normal height for that age ranges from 55″ to 70′ and normal weight ranges from 75 to 150 pounds. I think that’s relevant. He’s very tiny, which would probably mean he rides a small bike, which would be harder for motorists to see. Also, it would very likely indicate some sort of growth disorder, which, again, might account for Mom being more protective of him.”

    “Okay, what are people not getting here? This kid is in the *lower 1st percentile* for both height and weight for his age*. That means he is shorter and lighter than more than 99% of boys his age.”

    Someone already mentioned this, but both of these are speculations at best. First of all, the charts use white, suburban and bottle-fed children who have likely lived with caring parents their entire life. Sam is adopted. He could be a Chinese boy on the wrong side of a growth spurt who suffered from malnutrition when he was very young and even a few months after he was adopted (as malnutrition is not magically fixed after a week of proper meals). This does not imply that he has a growth or developmental disorder, just that he’s a short kid who’ll grow to be 5’4″ or a late bloomer that could reach 5’9″ depending on genetics and exercise and level of the hypothetical malnutrition.

    And sure, of course, even if he had some sort of developmental disorder, which we do not know, the mom has already been shown the kid /can/ get to school. She made notes of all the mistakes he made, and she could present them to him as pointers or orders to cross the street where he should instead of further down the street, but instead she just wrote them in an email (as far as we know), and used those as an excuse of him being incapable of completing the journey.

    If she’s worried about him being too small to see on his older, smaller, yellow bike then she could let him used the regular-size bike she bought him for his birthday. She just has to adjust the seat to a proper height and he should be perfectly able to ride a normal bike.

  97. Jessica June 1, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    Colagirl
    That is such a good point. And I totally agree– one parent decided to air all of their personal correspondence, publishing it to the internet so that we would rally to his side. Truth be told, they’re probably both a handful!

  98. John Galt June 5, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    Some of her irrationality may be due to wanting to countermand her husband’s decision, rather than her fear of danger to her son.