How We Roll
Last Tuesday, my daughter fell off her bike and cried. It was one of those full body wails; a slow contortion of her face, the heart-breaking lip pout and then the stream of tears. It was a bad fall, but a hug from her dad made it all better.
Or at least it would have. I actually wasn’t there. Pauline, the 16-year-old or so kid who was teaching my five-year-old how to ride her bike, mentioned that she took a bit of a tumble. My daughter seemed fine when I picked her up at the synagogue parking lot — no mention of daddy, no sign of tears.
A couple months ago my wife and I decided to sign our kid up with Pedalheads. It’s a Vancouver-based company offering cycling skills and safety training at locations in B.C., Alberta and now Ontario — they assure me 98% of the people who attend their five-day camp will learn how to bike, sans training wheels, by the end of the week.
On Day One the kids ride around with those extra wheels; Day Two they come off and a handful of teenage counselors try and steady the children and prevent any bloody knee scraping incidences.
When I told some of my friends that a kid named Pauline was going to teach my daughter how to ride a bike, they stared at me in what looked like horror. “Isn’t that what you should be doing?” said one person with a not-so-subtle tone of judgment.
I stopped. I didn’t know what to say. It’s true. I just outsourced one of the most important jobs in a father’s life — teaching his child how to ride a bike. There was more than one person who couldn’t believe that my sweet child would have to learn how to ride her bike from some teenager and not her clearly neglectful father.
Somehow, this never crossed my mind when I signed her up. I figured she’d have fun with one of her friends at camp. Plus, it would probably take me weeks to get over those tears.
Maybe the real reason why I didn’t think about it was that I have almost no recollection of my own father teaching me how to ride. I know he did and I’m sure I fell, scraped my knees and cried, but I don’t have memories of him consoling me or of the pain I felt when — or if — I gashed open my leg.
So much for a monumental father-son moment.
In the five years that I’ve been a dad to two incredible daughters, I’ve learned that parenting is not about the singular moments in a kid’s life. Yes, memories are important, but it’s the feelings and emotions that I remember most about my childhood. My parents created a warm, loving and open home for me and it wasn’t any one thing that did it.
Maybe my memory is fading, but I don’t remember playing catch with my dad or him talking to me about girls (well, that was my mom’s job) or helping me with math homework. Maybe he did these things, maybe not. I do remember him always making time for me. He – and my mother – gave me the confidence I needed to not just ride my bike, but accomplish anything. Oh, and hockey. He did teach me all about hockey.
These days you can outsource almost anything. You can hire someone to wake up with your kid at night or get someone else to make dinner for your family. There are people who will help your picky eater eat and even one company that will teach your child how to use the potty.
Who knows where it’ll end, but I do know one thing: it’s hard to outsource values, caring, laughter and all the other things that have shaped me into who I am today.
While I may not be teaching her how to ride a bike, in two weeks when we make it to the cottage, my daughter and I will be riding next to each other, talking about her day at camp and enjoying each other’s company. And that’s something no teenager can teach.