It was the summer of 1972. The Watergate scandal was breaking, Jane Fonda was touring North Vietnam and a 6 year old girl in suburban Washington D.C. (me), completely unaware of the politics around her, was itching to put rubber to the road. My mom, aware of my level of grace (or lack there of), pleaded with me to keep the training wheels on for just one more season. But my older brother had learned to ride that morning, and being a closet competitor, I was determined to master a two-wheeler by evening.
I spent all afternoon practicing on the back patio, and around dinnertime felt sure I was ready to attempt going around the block. Things seemed to be going fine up until the final stretch when, for some still unknown reason, I neglected to turn the handlebars sharply enough, and cruised directly into the side of my neighbor's (fortunately) parked car.
The damage to both the car and my bike was minimal; I'm not so sure I can say the same for my ego. While I did get back on the bike a few weeks later, my confidence was shot. I've never felt fully at home on two wheels since--especially street riding. There is just no bike line wide enough to accommodate my fear of falling into traffic.
But I haven't wanted to pass my biking anxieties on to my kids. We live in Madison, for goodness sake, land of the never-ending bike path. Learning to ride here isn't just a right of passage"I think it may be part of the citizenry requirement.
Fortunately, my oldest son, while not exactly what you'd call coordinated, was fearless and determined when it came to learning. He spent day after day tackling the neighborhood church parking lot. It certainly didn't come easy-- he fell. A lot. But there was never any crying or complaining. He could taste the impending success. I think he could also taste the Michael's Frozen Custard we promised when he could ride all the way there.
To be honest, I don't remember much about my second son's learn-to-ride experience. It just went so smoothly. He woke up one day, said the training wheels were coming off, and that was that. I am pretty sure we were down at Michael's to claim his reward before lunch. He toilet trained much the same way -- a simple pronouncement and then follow-through. I promise to remember these smooth parenting moments when he is a teenager. Tougher battles lie ahead.
Teaching my daughter though, was another story. She had no sense of balance and no sense of humor---a lethal combination for learning to ride. It was the summer of 2009; she had just turned seven. And while hardly Guinness-Book-of-World-Records-old for learning, we were starting to get nervous that her fear and apprehension would build over time. It was only going to get harder, both to learn and to fall. But with Labor Day fast approaching, my husband and I had resigned ourselves to the fact that she'd be starting second grade with an extra set of wheels still firmly attached to the back axle.
Then a friend told us about a new event the City of Madison was putting on, Ride the Drive. Downtown streets would be closed to traffic and bikers would rule the road. We kept our fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery might initiate a change of heart when it came to her learning.
My boys and I were all over the six-mile loop. The kids loved being able to ride down the middle of the street (and not just any street, but East Wash, mind you) without me yelling at them to get out of the road. And even I started to understand why so many people are passionate about biking in this town; it's actually pretty fun if you don't have to worry about red lights and car doors.
But the experience was transformative for my daughter. She and my husband packed her bike into the back of the car and drove over to Brittingham Park. Then, without annoying brothers, a nervous mother or self-imposed fears to stop her, it finally clicked. She made it up North Shore Drive and then onto John Nolan"straight on through the Tunnel where musicians were playing. The theme to Rocky would have been appropriate---she was a Champ.
Needless to say, it was ice cream for dinner that night.
Our whole family has gone to every Ride the Drive since... and this year's event, taking place Sunday, June 5 from 10 am-3 pm , looks to be the biggest and best yet (although possibly the last for this year). With a Charity Lap kick-off, a morning bike parade, the Weinermobile and the Milwaukee Brewers Famous Racing Sausages, there is something for everyone (especially meat lovers). And don't forget to make it over to Family Drive (North Shore Drive/Brittingham Place). IsthmusParents.com will be there hosting a "Decoration Station" to help your kids spruce up their rides.
My daughter and I will definitely be stopping by the booth to help cut a streamer or two. It will be nice for both of us to be reminded that, while you never forget how to ride a bike, it's nice to remember the day you learned, too.comments powered by Disqus
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.