Bicycle Parenting 101
Over the past few years I have been interested by various books being published about different parenting styles. I have wondered if any of them apply to me.
I have never been a Tiger Mom, too much work. There are days I am sure my children would compare me to Mommy Dearest. And I certainly hope I am not a helicopter parent.
The more I've thought about it, I have an official, self-imposed label: Bicycle parent. I actually have come to appreciate the analogy of the name over the past few days.
When we first have kiddos, we load them on the back of our bikes and cart them around. Or, maybe in the back of one of those bike trailers, which always made me nervous, the kids in there seem so vulnerable to some reckless teenage driver zooming around the corner.
Later, when they have proven themselves a bit more independent, they are given a trike, Big Wheel, some sort of plastic, Made in China contraption that we as parents spend a lot of time pushing and pulling, all while our oblivious toddler thinks they are doing all the work.
( Yep, that's Brandon, riding a bike sans training wheels at about 2 1/2 yrs old )
Eventually our children graduate to a little tiny bike with training wheels. They are coordinated enough at this stage in life that they can move the thing by themselves, but still need the safety of a watchful parent along with training wheels to steady them on their adventurous rides around the cul-de-sac.
Sooner or later, we have moved from iddy biddy bike to a fairly good sized bike and the child is ready to go it alone. The training wheels are removed and mom or dad run along side of the bike, holding on, encouraging all the way. Until, eventually, we as parents excitedly let go and and a wobbly frightened child becomes a wobbly independent child, beaming from ear to ear. We cheer and congratulate, we feel accomplished, but our job is far from over.
We still have to harass/insist helmets are worn, safety rules are followed, and we certainly don't want our children riding their bikes in traffic. Eventually, the rules have been engrained enough, our child can take a bike ride with friends or to school. Or, like my boys, go on eternal 50 mile bike rides with their scout troop. And we let them go, confident in their abilities.
Hopefully, all of the lessons will be retained and our children will go on to riding their bikes in dressed in suits and ties, or maybe in a skirt and blouse, in a far away land as they serve missions.
And, eventually, they will be the parent, running along side a bike, cheering their children on and teaching them the same lessons handed down from one parent to another.
Just as we eventually get to the point we can cheer and encourage our kids, and have enough confidence to let go of the bike seat, the same goes for parenting.
As a baby, we would never expect our child go it alone in the world. We keep them close and safe, near to us, buckled in with helmets. As toddlers, we start to see a little independence, but not enough to go it alone.
I think of my youngest sister, who at the age of 3 or 4 loved the exhilarating freedom that came from taking her Big Wheel allll the way down to the very bottom of our street, no brakes, just the wind blowing in her hair. Eventually, my mom would realize she had escaped and tell me to go all the way to the bottom of the block and bring her home. This was not a feat I ever looked forward to. Not only did I have to go clear down the street to find her, I had to push her, and her big wheel, all the way to the top. She refused to walk, or to peddle, or to help in any way at all. She wanted the same free ride she got going down. It would take 4-ever! Obviously, we couldn't just leave her down there all night ( although there were days I would have liked to! )
We would also never leave a young child alone to face the cold evening winds of the world alone. Too much freedom too soon can have disastrous consequences. We still have to safe guard our children, and sometimes push and pull a Big Wheel all the way up a street for their protection.
Eventually, that same sister of mine, defiantly taught herself how to ride a bike in a matter of minutes just to prove all of the neighbor kids she could in fact ride a bike without training wheels all by herself. It happened so fast, my parents were shocked. There are days I look at my children and think " Hmmm, your that independent already huh?" I don't know if we are always ready to let go of the bike seat, but we have to give our child the opportunity for independence.
We would never take over riding a bike for our child so they wouldn't fall and get hurt or because they might do it all wrong and mess up. We wouldn't want to rob them of the ability to ride a bike and the freedom that comes with it.
I pride myself in giving my children as many opportunities to explore and gain confidence as possible. My job as a parent is to make sure my child can safely ride a bike, not prevent them from that great childhood rite of passage all in the name of protecting them.
So, now my boys are off riding 50 milers, and I am proud of them, as I am each of my children in their independence. I have one heading off to college, another one driving like a pro, and another son who can hardly wait to have keys of his own. My lovely daughters are learning valuable skills as well. And Brandon? If anyone was ever under the impression he isn't independent, pull up a chair, I have stories to tell.
There are still times they need to stop and ask for help along their path in life. One night Mikenzie rode her bike up the long hill to our home from a friends house. It was colder, darker and farther from home than she had expected. Two blocks away, she stopped at a loving neighbors home and asked if she could warm up inside. Not only was she welcomed in, she was given hot cocoa and warm, loving environment where she was comforted. Thank you Johnston Family!!
I also remember two little neighbor boys knocking on my mom's door one hot summer day begging for a cool drink of water. They were welcomed in as well.
We as parents count on family and friends along the way offering our kids a quick pit stop where they can warm up, or if needed, to cool down. I am so grateful for the village surrounding my children who also encourage and cheer for my family.
One example that thrilled my girls and is an example of my finely tuned, expert parenting style ( ha, ha ), was the day I had them go into the beauty salon, state their names and phone numbers and wait to be seated all while I watched from the waiting area. Baylie was so proud of herself she commented " I'm so glad you made me do that even though I was afraid, now all I need is a ride and some cash and I can get my hair cut all by myself. " Lesson learned!
I enjoy seeing my children grow and learn how to become expert bike riders in life. After all, when they have grown a foot or two, they will need those skills to serve The Lord, not only riding bikes as missionaries, but as life long servants who are capable and confident.