We live in a fairly sizeable apartment complex. Four kids have taken to riding their bikes in our part of the parking lot, which is no big deal except for two things: they come over here so their parents cannot see them doing stupid things on their bikes, and they do these stupid things without helmets. I’m not sure that in seven months of living here I’ve seen anyone, adult or child, on a bicycle or motorcycle, wear a helmet. Right now three of them are riding past the fourth while the fourth tries to jam a long stick in their back wheels or riding their bikes holding sticks as jousting rods, and I’m wondering what my responsibility as a reasonable adult and somewhat concerned neighbor should be.
Truthfully, my first reaction is a big fat judgy one–they aren’t even taking off their helmets after they get out of sight, they just straight-up don’t have them. So from that I conclude that their parents are lazy or don’t give a damn or both. Judgmental? Yes. But I think about my kid, and if my kid is going to be riding his or her bike in a parking lot where people routinely speed and ignore stop signs, they’re wearing a helmet, period, full stop, and I don’t care if the state of Hawaii doesn’t have a helmet law to enforce. Sneaking around and taking the helmet off when they can’t see me is one thing, not buying one and insisting they wear it is quite another.
So if they’re doing stupid shit like trying to knock each other off their bikes, can I assume from the lack of basic safety insistence that their parents just don’t give a shit and it wouldn’t be worth it to say something to the parents? Would it be worth it to yell something like “That’s really dangerous, kids, knock it off” at the kids themselves? I just don’t know. Both Tom and I are having trouble with the idea of being the curmudgeonly neighborhood narcs, given that the kids would probably just tell us to go screw ourselves. They’re pretty loud and snotty toward each other, and they see no problem with throwing pieces of driveway gravel at each others’ heads when they get mad, as Tom saw the other day. And neither of us are at all comfortable with going to the parents directly. How would you react if someone told you that your kid–whom you’ve made no real effort to impose safety rules upon–was doing mildly dangerous stupid stuff when out of your sight? Our thought would be that these parents would tell us to mind our own business, which, hey, we’d like to, but we’re the ones who’d have to call 911 and try to close up the bleeding if they bust their head on the curb over on our side of the complex while one of the little Schwinn’s Angels rode to come get you. You sort of want us to be paying attention.
And secondly, my other concern is pretty superficial: I drive a 2007 model year car. They routinely come within about a foot-two feet of the parked cars, often mine and my neighbors’. Despite the fact that I’m the primary driver and not known for my driving finesse, it’s managed to avoid both serious and superficial body damage and it still looks pretty good. And I’d rather they weren’t flailing around with sharp, splintery, pointy sticks that close to my virgin unscratched paint job. So I don’t know if I’m coming from a parental “I don’t want you kids to get hurt/I don’t want to have to be the one to call the paramedics and administer first aid if your dumb ass gets knocked unconscious” place or a selfish “You scratch my car and I’m going to follow you home and tattle” place. The third option is to alert the condo association (all the units are privately owned, about half of them are leased to renters like us) and ask them to enforce the no-biking-within-the-complex-allowed rule, but I honestly wouldn’t care about the bike-riding if they were a) wearing helmets, b) not trying to joust each other with pointy stuff, and c) threatening possible damage to our vehicles.
And a final note to my child: whatever else you may be, little baby, I promise to all the adults and neighbors and kids you will encounter in your life that we tried to raise you not to be an obnoxious little sh**head. We may not be successful, but we’ll have tried.