He is oblivious of his father’s fears lurking just behind the trust given. It is only seven blocks between here and home – 8000 steps, 5 back alleys, a school yard, a park, and a grassy hill. 8 minutes and 26 seconds. That is if he goes straight. But he won’t go straight. The father knows it. Knows that the boy he is walking with will be walked home first and although the other boy’s home is near his own – it’s any but a straight way home. This makes it harder to predict which route the boys will take. Add to that the fact they are boys.
Who knows what makes a 14 year-old stop, turn, or take a ‘short cut’. Will the dog in old man Janzen’s back yard need a little teasing? Will they see their pal Jeffery taking out the trash and go in and check out his new game system? Will they notice the half a cigarette on the playground and try to find a way to relight the thing? Will they run into Danielle and Sarah? Will they decide in their infinite wisdom to use up the last three dollars in their pockets on a slurpee at the convenience store? That would certainly not be straight home. All of the potential vices these boys could explore on their way home circle around the father's mind like a taunting carousel.
If the father will allow himself the pleasure he could quickly point out the teaming potential danger to the boy and curtail his plans. The pleasure? Yes, if the father would allow his need for control, his protective instinct, and his brash arrogance to gain the upper hand – yes that would be pleasure. The father could ensure the boys would take the straight way home. The father’s personal experience would be vindicated. The father, in this brief fleeting moment, recalls the way diversion has often led to distraction which has led to divergence - - on his own path from the corner store back to his house as a boy. And this knowledge coupled with the distinct awareness that all these ‘divergences’ have only grown in their accessibility, makes the father jump ever so close to saying, “no”.
“Dad, Brad and I are just gonna walk home.” It’s not a question really at least not in the boys mind. It is the boy exercising his will and imposing on the trust of the father. It’s still a question in the father’s mind. It is a profound act of faith – even in its seeming triviality. Some day soon the boy will ask to use the car. It won’t stop there. The number of blocks between the boy and his home will only grow. The path will only twist more. Diversion, distraction and divergence will double. And what will prevent this boy from disillusionment?
Quote from an interview with Michael Ungar in Macleans who wrote the book Too Safe for Their Own Good: How Risk and Responsibility Help Teens Thrive:
So what are they doing instead?
They're being asked to study harder, or simply being excused of any responsibilities. They're shuttled from one structured activity to another. They're not developing a sense of personal responsibility. They're doing a lot of screen time -- we know that from study after study. Quite simply, they're not being given opportunities to develop the work ethics or the common sense that I think we would hope that young people would develop.
What age does this start at?
Very young. It starts in a pattern of being hesitant to let our children climb the monkey bars in the playground. You see little kids, a dog barks at them and the parents whisk them away rather than say, "Well, that's a dog, and dogs bark -- you've got to deal with it." And then, of course, we're taking away what we perceive as dangerous toys and we're driving them, we're not letting them walk or learn to navigate the streets on their bicycles or their skateboards.