I’m a recently retired health and science teacher with two daughters (3.5 years apart!). Professionally and personally, health and exercise have always been important to me. When my girls were little, staying home and waiting for Dad to get home before I could go out for a run or a ride wasn’t ever a consideration. Instead, exercise became our girls time. We’d head out to the boulevard that encompassed our little town, stroller in front and a tricycle in the back...tethered to me so I could help my oldest “navigate” inclines.
As the little one reached toddlerhood, I found a bike buggy, which attached to the rear wheel of my road bike. Both girls could ride in the buggy as I pedaled here and there. We could even carry a cargo of snacks on longer journeys! Freedom was ours.
It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: those years absolutely fly by. We were fortunate to have the wind in our hair the whole time. And as they got older, I decided it might be fun to see how fast I could go without two little girls on the back of the bike. I traded in my Panasonic for a beautiful celeste Bianchi race frame and found the race scene invigorating. Riding and training was fun and challenging. Although if you ask my oldest, her only memory of my racing days is being picked up from her grandparents house by a mom caked in dried blood. (Long story short: draft lines are great until they aren’t. The guy in front of me swerved to avoid a pothole, several of us crashed, I finished the race, and I wasn’t really hurt badly. But to her young eyes, it looked gross, and it left an impression.)
Apparently it didn’t deter her for long, though. Even at the young age of 5, she was determined to ride part of RAGBRAI with me, so I tagged along on her “training rides” as she attempted to prep for her RAGBRAI debut. Okay, let’s be honest, her one mile of RAGBRAI. But small things seem big when you’re little. And her grandparents are always there to save the day, picking her and her trusted steed up when her little legs gave out.
Now an adult, my oldest has replaced me in the sport of bike racing. Ironically, she bought herself a modern Bianchi, celeste in color. And she may be slightly more obsessed...she now has an entire stable of bikes. She now can leave me in the dust, and it suits me just fine. But she has a lot of work to do if ever intends to make it around a corner at speed. (Ahem. Quit braking!)
The impression we leave on our children is strong. They absorb and retain more than we think. They see what we do, even though they may not always hear what we say. Including them in our hobbies and activities (not forcing them, but being open to them joining) has a great deal of value in terms of developing confidence and independence, and it also helps develop a strong relationship with them. I will always cherish "tug boating" them around town and sharing the importance of fitness with my daughters. Whether cycling, running, hiking, climbing, horseback riding or raking leaves, doing things together is priceless.
Author: Simat Whipp, pictured below with her oldest daughter, Calla