Life in our Mountain Town: The adventures of being a Truckee kid
I don’t want to make the sweeping generalization that children living in Truckee are so much freer than those living elsewhere, but it’s an aspect of our life here that I’ve come to believe is true. Maybe my parenting style is slightly more hands-off than others. Or perhaps my children are just getting older.
I’m sure that there are parents living in our town who are more overly protective of their children than I am. I have a friend who joked with me recently that her oldest child wasn’t allowed to ride her bike out onto the street until a year ago, when she turned 11 and her parents realized that her bicycle was so big, she couldn’t turn it in the driveway. Her younger siblings have a little more freedom, being allowed to ride their bikes through the neighborhood, always in contact with a parent at home via a two-way radio.
My children, on the other hand, have been riding on the single-track trail above our house for a number of years. It’s kind of like riding through the neighborhood, except they are riding through the forest. Sometimes I have supplied them with a heavy two-way radio that belongs to my husband’s work crew, other times a cell phone, but more often, just a watch, and instructions to be back in half an hour.
We hosted a friend’s daughter who lives in Denver for what I thought was going to be a week of our magical summer fun last year. It was a surprise to realize as the week wore on that this child was very uncomfortable doing a lot of the things that my children love to do. She did not like swimming in our freezing cold lakes, while my children ran to the water and jumped in with glee. I tried to understand her perspective and even supplied some rationale for her unhappiness, explaining to her that the water in our lakes is freshly melted snow. As she sat and watched my kids having fun in the water, she told me that she was used to more artificial things, like heated pools and malls. Furthermore, the thought of riding her bike through the forest where she might see a coyote or a bear frightened her so much that she declined bike rides every time it was suggested.
We tried to make the best of her visit, and came up with ideas of things to do like going to a movie in Reno, where she felt right at home. We did succeed in talking her into riding a raft down the Truckee River, but we had to coax her with reassuring information such as “the water is shallow so it’s warmer than the lake,” and “the rapids are gentle.” We promised her she would have fun, and we hoped she would, because we were determined to get her away from our computer and show her what we love about our summertime.
I had another experience last summer that prompted me to look more closely at my inclination to allow my kids a certain amount of freedom. It didn’t occur to me as I rented a kayak for my 9 year old and her friend, or as I got them set up with life jackets and a watch. But once I watched them disappear around a cove, I suddenly was swept with a feeling of concern. I worried that maybe I sometimes err on the side of parenting a little too loosely.
But then the kids returned bursting with news of their exploits which all happened out of my sight, around the bend, in a hidden cove at Donner Lake. They told me about how they had tied the kayak to a tree and swam in what they called a secret swimming hole. They had a story to tell that was all their own.
I guess they could have drowned, a more protective mother might point out to me. But I reason that they are resourceful kids and proficient swimmers. My rationalizations that allow my children to take off on their mountain bikes or in a kayak have to do with the fact that I value my children’s adventures, which are sometimes had without me along to supervise.
It also has a lot to do with trust.
I just plain trust that they will be all right.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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