What did you teach to your child today?
As Parents we are always Parenting
I wanted a bagel for breakfast. Not just any bagel, a fresh, bagel shop bagel. I could just drive my car a little over a mile to get what I wanted, but there was this internal nagging voice that urged me to ride my bike.
This voice made some sense. It was a beautiful morning, cool, low humidity, and sun shining. I gave in; the voice wanted more, it begged that I ask my son to join me on this ride. I could see the merit in this request. My son was still somewhat new to bike riding (although almost ten). Living on a busy road for most of his life provided him with limited opportunities to master bike riding. He wasn’t confident on his bike and I could understand why. Now that we had moved to an area with less traffic, he was gaining confidence with each bike ride. The ride to the bagels had the challenges of hills and traffic. I asked him to join me anyway. With our plan in motion, I realized this was not just a bike ride or a quest to satisfy my carbohydrate craving; it was opportunity. And not just one opportunity, embedded in this ride was several opportunities, opportunities in parenting.
Much of what we teach our children as parents does not come in the form of direct teaching. Our children learn from us through their observation skills. On this twenty minute round trip bike ride I was able to convey some very important lessons to my son. I want to be clear here, I did not set out to do this. I did not set out this morning and say, “how can my bagel craving turn into valuable parenting lessons?” It was the reflection about our ride, after the ride, which demonstrated to me that we are always teaching our children. If that is true, that we are always teaching our children, as parents we need to be thoughtful about those lessons.
After reviewing the ride, these are some of the things I believe taught my son. Right or wrong, these are the lessons I could identify.
1. A great way to start your day is with activity. My son and I brushed our teeth, got dressed and headed out the door. With over 30% of children being overweight or obese, this lesson may be one that if he adopts regularly will improve his quality of life.
2. This ride was something we set out to do together. The lesson here was that doing things with people you love, especially in your family, is special and fun. It might not be a match for jumping on the trampoline with your buddy from school, but it’s nice to do things with your mom (especially early in the morning when you are less likely to been seen by your friends).
3. We had to set goals. This was the farthest and most challenging bike ride my son had even thought of to date. As we strapped on our helmets, we discussed the goal of getting there and back and set some intermittent goals along the way. The intermittent goals, like reaching the post office, kept him encouraged even though the bagel shop was, as he described, “So far away.”
4. Prior to the ride we discussed the hills, the traffic situation, and the overall task. When he faced the challenge, although he may have been nervous, he gained confidence and ultimately a sense of pride. There is an important lesson that emerges when you challenge yourself. On the other side of doubt and worry is pride.
5. The bagel shop was closed. Closed! My son was disappointed (I almost cried, I was tasting that bagel blocks before we got there). We had to move quickly into problem solving mode. The closed bagel shop became only an obstacle because we were buying bagels and muffins from the eatery located merely steps away from our original destination.
6. During the bike ride I monitored the traffic. I let my son know when I thought he should slow down and move onto the sidewalk. I told him when there was a car behind us. Although there was no guarantee of his safety, he knew I was doing my best to keep him safe; a lesson I am sure I have conveyed before.
About a block from our house we reached a ridiculous hill. My son asked if he’s on the correct side of the road (he was), feeling safe and confident, he tackled that hill. The hill tackled back at the half waypoint, and we got off and walked our bikes for a few steps. When he got back on he said, “Next time I am going to get all the way up that hill.”
What did you teach to your child today?