Letter from the Editor: I have failed as a parent

by Stephanie Fellenstein Published:

My daughter was staring at me like I had two heads.

"You want me to walk?" she said.

"Uh, yes," I replied. "If you want to go to cross country practice, you're going to need to walk. Or you could ride your bike."

"Bike?" she said.

"That thing in the garage with the two wheels ..."

She sighed.

I read a great essay the other day, "10 ways to give your kids an honest-to-goodness 1970s summer." It talked about BPA-laden plastic pitchers filled with sugar-rich Kool-aid, Charlie's Angels and hours and hours of playing outside with nothing but a rubber ball and a big stick -- the epitome of my summers growing up.

I'm pretty sure my mom never left the house. She may disagree, but I remember riding my bike everywhere -- to the pool, the library, to softball practice and to Baskin Robbins for a 70-cent single scoop of bubble gum ice cream.

There were no pre-arranged "play dates." We played with whoever was outside. We made up our own games and there were no gluten-free snacks. Actually there were no snacks at all. We didn't eat until our moms yelled "dinner" out the front door when the street lights came on.

My husband, who was #7 and the baby in his family, talks of the grand adventures he and his friends took to the Twinsburg ledges [giant, rocky outcroppings], now Liberty Park, four miles from his house. They were gone for hours. Hours. I have no idea where his mom thought he was, but I can guess the ledges were not even on her radar.

I need to strike more of a balance. I am all for unorganized free play, bad '70s TV and bike riding that fosters independence. Add in some sunscreen, a few snacks and a bike helmet and summer will be perfect.

So kid, dust off that bike and pedal yourself over to cross country practice. You'll thank me someday.

Editor's note: While Stephanie Fellenstein never wore a bike helmet growing up, she wears one now, except when she's getting her picture taken for this column.

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