I had finished the weekend chores and had just sat down to relax when my 8-year old son Dan came in and asked if he could go out and ride his bike. Right away our 4-year old ran in the room and said that he wanted to go too. I hesitated at first since Tim had never gone out on his bike before without his mom or me.
Finally, I said that they could both go, but they couldn’t ride in the street. Fortunately, we have a park and a school directly across from our house, so they said they would go there and ride on the sidewalk.
I watched them carefully cross the street and hop on their bikes and ride away. Within 5 minutes, I looked out the window and saw my older son riding as fast as he could down the street and up into our yard. He leapt from his bike and ran toward the front door. The momentum of the bike continued until it crashed into the bushes. Out of breath, he burst through the door and yelled, “Dad, Timmy just got hit by a car!”
I don’t think in all my years of parenting I’d ever heard more frightening words. I jumped into our minivan and peeled out of the driveway down to the end of the block. (I actually burned rubber in a minivan!). In my twenty-five second drive to the end of the block I said my most fervent prayer ever.
When I got to the scene in the parking lot of the school, Timmy was sitting on the curb. The woman driving the car was a bit hysterical. I ran to Tim and asked him if he was hurt. “Not much”, he replied. I checked him over and, other than a few scrapes, he looked okay. Again, I said another quick prayer of thanksgiving.
Just then I heard another woman screaming and running towards us. It was my wife! I had completely forgotten to tell her what happened. She was upstairs folding laundry when she heard Dan come in. By the time she got downstairs, I was already burning rubber on our driveway. She ran all the way to the end of the block in her socks.
After a few moments we pieced together what had happened. The boys were having a race down the sidewalk. The woman was backing her car out of a service drive at the school when Tim hit the side of her car. She told us that she never thought to look to see if anyone was coming down the sidewalk.
There were a couple of nice dents in her car door from Timmy’s bike and helmet, but he was fine. I picked up his bike and put it in the van. As we were getting ready to leave, the woman asked for my insurance information so she could make a claim on her car. I didn’t have my information with me so I gave her my phone number. I thought to myself, “Wow, you hit a kid on a bike and you want him to pay for the damage to your car?” She never called.
Obviously, this is every parent’s nightmare. Our kids never realize the hours we worry about them. They don’t know how creative we can be dreaming up all the terrible things that might be happening to them when they are 15 minutes late coming home.
I had a hard time getting over my fear and worry whenever my boys wanted to go out biking. For a long time, when they asked if they could go biking, I just said, “No, not today.” My worry and fear of my kid’s safety overwhelmed me.
Every parent worries about their kids. Will they get hurt physically or emotionally? Are they doing okay in school? Are they making friends? Are they hanging out with good kids? Do they fight too much with their siblings? Are they eating healthy enough?
We also worry about ourselves as parents. Am I spending enough time with my kids? Am I giving them the right kinds of experiences? Am I too strict? Am I too lenient? Am I yelling too much? Should I be yelling more? Did I buy them the right kind of shoes that will help them fit in with others?
Fear and worry are healthy and normal emotions for parents.
But can we worry too much? I think we can. Excessive worry can actually be detrimental to your kids’ development and to your relationship with them. To a kid, excessive worry on our part can feel controlling and manipulative.
When we worry excessively, we can take away our kids’ own ability to make wise decisions. Excessive worry can feel over-protective and smothering. When this happens, a kid’s natural response is to rebel.
Some lessons need to be learned by experience. I remember my parents telling me I would get burned if I touched the coil on our electric stove. I didn’t really understand until I actually touched it and burned my hand.
Recently I overheard a parent say, “It’s my job to worry about my kids.” I wanted to say, “Actually, your job is to help your kids develop in to wise, capable, responsible, faith-filled, caring, and loving adults. Worry is just a small part of the job description.”
As parents, we need to find that ever-changing balance between healthy concern and excessive worry. When our kids were young, we took care of everything for them. As our kids got older, we needed to transfer our worry to their responsibility. We learned to ask questions that allowed them to examine possible consequences of actions. We wanted to help them discover the wise choice on their own.
As our kids got older, our job changed from worrying less to praying more.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you (Psalm 56:3).
My sons are now in their twenties. I still worry about them, but I’ve learned that it is now their responsibility to worry for themselves. It’s really hard to let that go. I’m getting better at it. Recently I even let them ride their bikes again.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two sons
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries
Meet Pete at the 2016 HeartCORe Family Conference in Kansas City!
Click HERE for details.