I had just turned 8, and I decided I wanted to go to Schiphol to look at the planes. By myself. I had gone out there a few times before with my dad, but it was the summer holidays and I wanted to go on a little adventure. I figured out the route on a map of Amsterdam, and set out to ride from one end of Amsterdam to the other. My mom had packed me a lunch, the map, the phone numbers of some of my parents friends and family along the way, some money, and off I went. At about the halfway point, at the old Olympic stadium, there was extensive road construction, streets all torn up, road signs down, and I got all discombobulated. Turned around and went home.
Upset that I hadn’t made it, the next week, I set off again. Figured out different routes around the area that had given me trouble. And this time I made it. Watched the planes for a while, turned around and went home.
People are aghast when I tell them this. “Your parents let you ride your bicycle across a big city by yourself when you were 8?!”
Granted, it’s a city with excellent bike infrastructure. I guess they figured I was a fairly bright kid. But I set a goal, used map reading skills, overcame difficulties, got some exercise, etc.
What do you think builds a kids abilities and self esteem? That, or taking them to the mall to buy them a video game because they ate their supper without crying about being lucky enough to have something to eat?
I still think back fondly to that experience, and realize how much it taught me.