We all love cycling. We know the benefits. We have such great memories of the adventures and the people we’ve met along the way. It’s only natural that we want to include our children on the journey with us. Our children already know how important cycling is to us. The trick is to make it important to them.
It’s easy when you can just pick them up and put them in a trailer. Maria Bozeman, mother of Josie, 3, and Carden, 1, says, “I do it for selfish reasons.” She needs to ride her bike, so the kids go with her. For the most part, they are content to ride in the trailer. If Maria’s lucky, they’ll nap while riding.
Not So Portable Children
But what about an older child, who’s not interested in riding his bike? Back when gas hit $4/gallon, I convinced my son Luke, who was 8 at the time, to ride bikes for short trips. “We’ll be reducing greenhouse gasses,” I told him. Luke is a budding ecologist, so that worked for him. His little brother Noah, who was 5 then, wasn’t convinced. For him it was the promise of a treat. That worked for me…we got some exercise, helped the environment, and got ice cream!
What Do You Want?
“It’s all about expectations,” says Becky Sittason, mother of Anna, 14. “I wanted to ride my bike, and as a single mom, the only way to do it was to take Anna.” She and Becky participate in week long organized rides, first on a tag along, and now on a tandem. To make it more enjoyable for Anna, Becky always has a bag packed with Anna’s stuff. Becky recalls one long ride. “Anna kept poking me in the back and I kept ignoring her. When we got to the next stop, I discovered she’d chewed all the gum out of her pack and stuck each piece on my back!”
Relax and Have Fun!
When my boys were both young enough to fit in the trailer, I took a turn way too fast. The trailer tipped over. Horrified at what I’d done, I expected the worst—blood, broken bones, concussions. I hopped off my bike to rescue them only to find them both laughing hysterically. They wanted to do it again! We didn’t, but I learned to slow down and enjoy the ride with them.
“Thank you for taking Joe mountain biking.” My sister Mary told me that recently. Before I had children, I’d take my nephew Joe on the regular Tuesday night ride. It was something fun we could do together. Much later I realized how important those experiences were. Even though he was only 11 at the time, Joe got to hang out with adults who treated him as “one of the gang.” Today, 20 years later, Mary (and Joe) appreciate that opportunity he had to meet and get to know some interesting people.
The Dark (and Not Dark) Side
There are always low points in any ride. My children barely touched their bikes last summer (but come to think of it, neither did I). Maria talks about the crying fits on the bike trail, “but what can I do? We have 15 miles to get back to the car. Becky mentions the “daily meltdown on the side of the road at mile 25.” So why do we do it?
Becky sums it up beautifully. “Anna knows that spending all those hours on the bike with me is special, it’s something none of her friends have. She knows I do it because I love her.”