I’m writing today in defense of kids everywhere. I’m defending them from adults who criticize them for not riding their bikes everywhere; for not staying out and playing until the street lights come on; for sitting around watching television and playing video games; and for spending countless hours texting their friends and updating their “status”.
And most of all, I wanna defend them from listening to an adult say, “When I was a kid, I would [fill in the blank].” That’s great that when you were a kid you were super active. But guess what? Kids don’t have the luxury of seeing what you did as kids. They only see what you do now. And is what you’re doing now any different than what they’re doing now?!
African-American author and civil rights activist James Baldwin is credited with saying, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” You can tell them what you did as a kid. Heck, you can even tell them to go out and play, but they need to see you doing it.
I was fortunate. I lived in a town where I could ride my bike everywhere, literally. I rode my bike to both elementary and junior high school. (I would’ve ridden to high school, too, but I was under the impression it wasn’t cool, so I instead walked.) I rode my bike to my friends’ homes. We would then ride out into the country to fish. I rode my bike to the golf course, with my clubs on my back. I rode everywhere.
Do you know why I rode everywhere? Because I had a dad that rode everywhere, including work. And if it was too rainy or snowy to ride, he’d put his “rubbers” on over his dress shoes and walk.
My daughter enjoys riding her bike, but she doesn’t do it that much. My seven-year-old still doesn’t know how to ride his bike, and he shows little interest in learning how. Why? I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I’m sure not riding my bike has a lot to do with it.
As a parent, we wear many hats. One of which is a coach hat. In the world of coaching, there’s a saying–“Tell, do, teach.” We can tell our kids what we did, or we can show them what we do. Which one do you think works better?
“I talk, and talk, and talk, but I haven’t taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week.” — Mario Cuaomo
The defense rests. Oh, and thanks, Dad! Now I gotta go ride with my kids!