Teaching My Children Well…

My posts have become sparse these days, and unfortunately, I seem to mainly be inspired by the more devastating events in the periphery of my life these last few months…

On Saturday night, May 19th, an 18 year old “man” was struck by a vehicle in downtown Northampton while riding his bicycle. I met Harry Delmolino as a boy of about 4, but hadn’t seen him in years since we moved out of Hadley in 2004. I spoke at length with his father, John late last year and heard of Harry’s love of computers and his college adventures. I saw the love and adoration in John’s eyes as he spoke of both his son and daughter and I’m sure he saw that reflected back as I caught him up on my own family.

I don’t know the circumstances of Harry’s accident and who was at fault. I know that he was riding a bicycle without a helmet, which may or may not have mattered due to his severe injuries, we’ll never really know. Harry died yesterday after 4 days in intensive care.

Harry’s death hits me hard because he was young, I knew his parents, and he had his whole life ahead of him. It makes me cry because he was really still a child, and I can’t imagine losing one of my own. Becoming a parent was a dream of mine from a very young age, and what I didn’t realize until I actually had a child, is that every single day since before my first child was born, I would imagine losing them.

We try, as parents, to teach our children well. For me, that’s always included the gauntlet of rituals that include seatbelts, helmets, approved child safety seats, door locks, outlet protectors, poisonous cleaners and chemicals tucked safely out of reach, fire escape ladders,  escape plans, rehearsals for fire escape, and the list goes on.

When my kids whine about why I won’t let them jump on a trampoline that doesn’t have safety nets, I stand adamant that until they are 18, they have to abide by our rules. With further whining, I threaten to take them to a hospital that houses people who have had head injuries. They usually stop, but continue to be upset that they have the most hard-ass parents of anyone they know.

I say to them, “if something happened to you and you got a head injury or worse, died, would I think, I told you so?” “No, I’d cry and miss you every day of the rest of my life! Is that worth it to have some jumps on an unsafe trampoline?”

And what kind of parents would have a trampoline without safety nets and allow neighborhood kids to go on it without supervision or permission? I just don’t understand.

There are those who think that government should stay out of people’s lives and we should all be allowed to decide for ourselves whether to wear a seat belt, helmet, or reduce regulations on so many different things, but I’m all for these regulations if they save lives. If helmets are required for motorcycles in MA, why not for bicycles too? Why leave it up to adults to make a decision which obviously makes a difference? In MA, one only has to wear a helmet through 12 years old, yet there are children every single day riding on our streets without helmets, and no one is enforcing the laws.

I am a biker, as many of you know. I’ve been a biker since I first taught myself to ride a bike by perching on the running board of the old Model A truck that my dad had sitting in our dirt driveway. He bought it to use for parts for the Model A Coupe that he restored in the 1950’s. I have that car now, complete with the engine from that truck that spurred me on to the love of bicycling that remains today. I was bitten by the lure of  wind whipping over my body, legs pumping and amazing downhill speeds that my road-biking has offered  for 40-some years still. It’s part of me that I hope to never give up! I always assume that drivers do not see me, that parked cars will open their doors and hit me, and I’m cautious and experienced in traffic, but I’ve been learning this skill for many, many years.

The fact is, that when kids turn 18, they get to make their own decisions, and many liberal, progressive,  or tired parents let them start much earlier. Yes, it is their choice, but for my own kids, I won’t stop hounding them just because they are of age.

I didn’t keep my kids safe for so long, worrying about every too-small toy that they might choke on, slippery bath tub that they could fall on, 2-story window screens that might fall out if they leaned on them, good, working equipment for their sports and recreational activities, vaccines, ski helmets, warm boots, gloves & coats, tick checks, Dr. check-ups, and the hundreds of other ways I’ve protected them to have them throw all of that away when they hit 18!

Teaching my kids, as you do yours, should be something that leaves an indelible mark inside them. I want them to always  use common sense, take precaution, assume danger in some instances, and proceed with caution. My goal is that they will always hear my voice speaking loudly in their in their heads telling them to be smart and stay safe!

R.I.P. Harry.

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