How safe are Chicago’s streets really?

Forhis 10th birthday, my son received a shiny new bike.

Days later, having tired of riding his bike just around the block, he asked me politely, “Mom, can Ipuuulllleeeeezeeee ride my bike to the corner store?” (which is about five blocks from our sweet home in Chicago).

I paused, not knowingwhat to answer. First came the irrational thoughts – have you ever checked out theIllinois Sex Offender website and mapped your area? Yeah. Then came the more rational thoughts: My son is street smart, knows our neighborhood on the back of his hand – we’ve walked it together so many times. There are a number of “safe” homes on every block he’d pass, neighbors we know. He’s got a cell phone, so he can always call me if he runs into trouble. He’s well versed in stranger danger.

“Go ahead,” I said nonchalantly, “Take two bucks from my wallet.” He was all smiles and excited and ran out while I wondered, “Am I crazy?” But somehow, I managed to let my worries, and him, go. The baby was napping so I took a bubble bath, promising myself that I wouldn’t waste time running scary scenarios through my mind.

Since then, he’s branched out a bit and sometimes – brace yourself – rides his bike or walks to the park, to play soccer with his friends in an alley a few blocks away, or, even….to Dunkin’ Donuts. He knows never to cross any of the big streets, and he knows what to do in case of emergency. In return, he’s turning into a confident, very trustworthylittle man.

God knows I love my son more than anything and would really prefer to keep him wrapped up in bubble wrap and next to me 24/7 – but a mom’s gotta let go, right? I want nothing more than forhim to goconfidently into this world, knowing knowing that there is more good than bad out there.

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