3.04.2012

these are different times...

simple and true... these are different times
this is the era of the hover parent
a time when children do not do anything outside the shadow of their parents
like helicopters parents hover over their children ready to swoop down and protect them from any potential danger or harm

I enjoy spending time with my children
I am a active dad with some active kids
it would be unrealistic for me to just let my kids do the stuff that we like to do without me by their side
okay... I am a hover parent

why would I be any different?

it is funny... when my boys were younger I would watch other parents run around the toddler park
catching their children at the base of the slide
spotting them on the monkey bars
or pushing them on the swings
and I would wonder... am I that bad

certainly not...
while those parents appeared to be over protective
I felt like I was being involved
but really I was being over protective and over involved

we are all just trying to do a good job
trying to be the parents our parents were not
and trying to be the model parents of our day
all we really want is for our kids to grow up happy, healthy, and whole
well adjusted and ready to take on the world

riding bikes... skateboarding... soccer... football...
you name it
if my boys want to play it... I am ready to jump in it myself
sometimes I would prefer to step back and watch
but for some reason I feel that if I am involved things move in a more structured fashion

when skateboarding I am involved
the boys tend to sit more than stand
so... I push them to push themselves
making sure they mix it up... some sitting and some standing
stressing the dangers and the need to be careful
but trying to take things from a recreation play level to an effort that builds towards a sport

when playing football I am often permanent QB
calling the plays and trying to give everyone a chance to be involved in the game
mixing up who gets the ball... not just who is open... but who has not made a play yet
so often I start a game and walk away only to see the game fall apart in front of me
or to see a lop sided team without any more than two people handling the ball

the same goes for soccer, kickball, and other games...
coaxing kids to play and coaxing kids to stay in the game
then... once the game gets going they are happy to be there
I try and keep them from thinking that they can just walk off the field mid game

the bikes are not much different
at 8 and 10 I can not just send the boys out on their bikes
we live in the city
and well... in these times it is more dangerous than ever for a person to ride their bikes on the street
if people do not see me on my bike... they most definitely not see either of my boys who are much smaller and sit much lower when on the bike

but there is still the alley!
the alley is not the exciting bicycle destination that it once was
going up and back in the alley is not so exciting now that the boys have all gotten larger and more mobile
but... if there is a ramp or or a similar man made obstacle they can entertain themselves quite well

but even this is not without the meddling of my adult hover parent tendencies
I am not ready for my kids to go through the trial and error of a ramp that was built unsafe and caused them to break an arm or something worse
yes... crashing can be part of the game
so I work to avoid it

when the boys build their own ramps with a stack of bricks and a board I give it a glance and share what I think would make it more stable
with the reminder for them to check it as things will shift after each rider
the boys can be pretty good at this
they can start at one height and then more steep over time

the other day my younger son Grant was playing with Sammy from down the block
Sammy wanted to ride bikes... so Grant got on his bike and they went up and down the block doing NO HANDS
I gave them some space... snapped a few photos... then grabbed the dog to take him for a requisite walk
as I was headed down the alley to the woods I saw the boys were pulling out another neighbor's ramp

well...
I of course could not help but get involved
I interjected as the ramp was placed just before the alley drops down a slight hill
thinking it made sense to pull the ramp back 20 yards to they approach it on flat, land on flat, and then turn around on flat
my younger son Grant fully understood this and assisted in the move
a father from down the block... the designer and builder of this ramp seemed to think that my input was unnecessary

then... being who I am... being a parent of this modern times I gave my parental advice
"when approaching an unfamiliar jump take the first approaches slow!"

I had the camera... so I stepped back to snap a few shots before walking the dog
at a pace not as slow as I had instructed the boys approached the ramp
first one kid... then the next
each of the boys hitting the ramp in a similar awkward style

the ramp was designed with a little more transition than need be
when the boys launched off the end the little transition the quick switch caused the front end to kick up
and then when the back end hit that little lip it kicked up the back end
making for an awkward trajectory where the rider could not help but land front wheel first

UGLY!~

I watched one approach by each boys... then another
after the second effort I told my son Grant not to use this ramp
that I felt it was unsafe... while letting the other boys know that I strongly recommended against using this ramp
then... Grant hit the ramp one more time... DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!
go figure... he did not hear me

on this last set of jumps both Sammy and Grant hand near crashes
so I got stronger in my instructions of not to ride this ramp
and to just rebuild their ramp with the bricks and wood
then left off with my dog for the woods

meanwhile the builder of this ramp hustled to get his bike from the garage
I guess he wanted to show me that this ramp was fine
but I was not so concerned with his perspective
I was more concerned with the safety of the children... especially mine

it was not about being competitive dads

I did not stick around to witness things
could this ramp be ridden? sure... did it put the kids at an unnecessary risk? YES!
am I over involved?
yes sometimes, but not in this case!

when I got back both ramps and all the bikes were already put away
the "ramp session" did not last
hanging with the camera asking... "just one more... I did not get the shot" can usually extend the ramp sessions
I asked young Grant how this dad did on the ramp... "did he crash?"

well... not exactly, I was told
but his front wheel did break the ramp before he slowly rolled over it

as it turns out the top sheet of wood on the ramp was too thin and too weak to take the weight of an adult rider
which made his one and only attempt at proving me wrong end in failure... not EPIC FAILURE... but failure just the same
not proving my point on the unnecessary transition
but backing up the notion that the ramp is not safe

just as I talk my kids downhill skateboarding on the shallow grade hill rather than the steep curvy hill
I try to introduce biking options that are within their scope
when we mountain bike I take them on trails where they can have fun with some degree of challenge
but nothing that is going to end catastrophically
it is like skiing... you want to push yourself...but you do not want to go fully over your head

don't go down the Double Black Diamonds if you are just learning the greens

but this ramp...
well... the design was flawed
and the chance for failure was eminent

as a cycling parent I know that I have a long list of responsibilities
my kids need bicycles that are the right size and working properly
Sammy's bike is too small

I check my kids bikes for air in the tires, lube on the chain
with a spin of the wheels I check that the wheels are true and that the brakes are working as they should
these are not things that the kids can do themselves

I did not finish this...
but it may be enough for now


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