In the later afternoon, our family decided to go on a Labor Day bike ride. I was leading the path, but evidently my kids were a bit behind at first, according to my husband who was following everyone else. Once we stopped at a traffic light, our oldest three kids were able to coast in front of me. Riding closer with them worked so much better, as I could provide guidance when I could actually see them. Leading without knowing exactly where they were at was definitely not working for me.
Going through life is definitely the same way – when I try to drag my kids along, no one enjoys the ride. This is just one of the many lessons I have learned about parenting from riding a bike. Here are some of the others:
Getting Started Can Take A lot of Effort … This is true when you are beginning to be a parent. After all, you wake up one day expecting and are holding a baby by day’s end. The fact that this transition is a bit bumpy should not be surprising. Maybe some people just naturally know what to do. Most of us do not. Consider yourself to be in the “training wheel” season and cut yourself a lot of slack. Eventually even if you do not have all of the answers, you will be the one who knows (and loves) your child the best!
Pay attention to the condition of your bike before you get going. Like being a mile from home when you realize that you have been riding all along with a flat tire will impede progress. Or trying to get moving with a chain that has inched its way off balance. Just as maintenance is important to keep a bike in optimal condition, spending time together is the way to maintain healthy family relationships. Quantity and quality time are both important!
Also, how do you set the tone in your home? How much do you spend time criticizing? How about encouraging? Are you more positive or negative as a parent? Unfortunately I think I can cause my kids to camp out a little too long in the land of discouragement.
Changing gears is often necessary. Frequently you may realize that what you are trying to accomplish as a parent just is not working. Despite trying to teach responsibility, your child continues to leave stuff everywhere. Just as you would not try to use the same gears to go uphill as you would to coast downhill, a new approach is sometimes necessary. Change it up a bit. Often I am reminded that each one of my kids is different – the same techniques will not usually work universally.
Sometimes the best solution is using your breaks. Having a good grasp on your brakes is important especially if riding in rush hour traffic. As a parent, recognizing that you will also need breaks is important. Just as a working parent is required to take two fifteen minutes breaks at a job, perhaps stay-at-home parents need to also get in the habit of finding a safe way to take a breather. Yes, nap time is a great time to accomplish many things, but finding a way to feel refreshed during that time may be even more helpful. I know I am much more productive when I give myself a daily time-out!
When riding your bike, keep your mouth closed to avoid swallowing the gnats. I must give credit to this idea to my husband. His point is that too often we speak when we need to be quiet. Especially when our child needs correction. I know I am guilty of droning on and on with suggestions on how a child can improve rather than simply making a quick statement of exhortation. Interesting how we can get into less trouble by keeping our mouths shut sometimes.
Even though everyone has one destination in mind, there are many paths. I better clarify – I am not taking at all about religious choices – just parenting ones. The goal of almost every parent is to raise a great kid. How might this look? Contrasting!
Nursing vs. bottle feeding. Working vs. staying at home. Lenient vs. strict. Involved vs. staying at home.
The choices start early and continue to multiply. I think remembering that most parents still have the same goal, even if they may go about getting there differently, is important. Rather than criticizing other parents’ choices, perhaps we should try to learn from them. I know I benefit greatly when I learn from others’ experiences.
Supporting our fellow riders will help all of us go further on this challenging journey called parenting.