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
Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter.
After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?
As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.