The passage of time is a slippery thing. I can remember when time passed very slowly as a child. The day seemed endless and a 3pm finish to the school day was an eternity.
I remember time speeding up at university. I would be away from my apartment/dorm room the entire day. And then slowing down again during the summer holidays after my first year of university. Why? I found a job and an apartment and stayed in Chicago for the summer. One of the first Saturday afternoons after a week of work, I found that I had time to spend as I wished. No commitments. Not even a boyfriend to quicken the pace.
Now, it’s a different story. Two kids, husband, household and business to run tends to make time disappear in a flash. When I have been asked what I did on the weekend, sometimes I draw a blank. I keep moving forward. And suddenly, ten years have elapsed.
How did I realise this? One recent Sunday, while my husband Justin was away for an long ride with his mates, I took the kids to Ikea in Tempe by bicycle. We had been reduced to four drinking glasses in our household. It was time for a meatball lunch and some new inexpensive glassware.
At present, both of our kids in the Nihola are a combined weight of 64kg. It’s total carrying capacity is 90kg. We’ll be there sooner rather than later. Carrying both is a tight squeeze and puts a lot of stress on the brakes, as one would expect. Consequently, on this slightly rainy day, I suggested that my daughter try riding her own bicycle for at least part of the journey to Ikea. She can ride distances on her mountain bike and road bike having started on a balance bike when she was three. But I was suggesting something different, a commute.
My son was game on his now-inherited balance bike. I thought we could ride to the ice skating rink in Alexandria that we often attend for practice. It’s a 7km ride. We could lock up both bikes in the covered garage and pick them up on our return.
It took some convincing and in the end I suggested that she ride my old Giant Elwood hybrid bicycle. She had ridden it to the Entertainment Quarter from Surry Hills with my husband during the school holidays. She likes it because it’s very light and it has 27 gears which makes it easy to ride. We put on our rain gear, made sure we had locks and keys and set off.
Our bike bus!
And then the passage of time struck me. The Giant Elwood was the first bicycle that I bought in Sydney and my daughter was my first passenger. Her Topeak seat was long gone as it had been stolen from the luxury hotel in Bali years ago. Ten years ago in September 2006, I was two months pregnant.
Lots of things have changed since. I weigh less now than when I met my husband in London. I bicycle everywhere. I’m a mother. I quit working as an investment banker. I’m more patient. The list is quite long. But it doesn’t take long to focus on the present again, especially when your daughter isn’t enjoying herself. The bicycle frame is a bit big for her height but I suspect the rain had something to do with it. But she’s also a complex creature, similar to me in personality. Also, the last term of school had not been a success. My son was oblivious to her bad mood. He was happy pushing himself along on the flats of the George Street Cycleway.
I put her in front of our convoy to give her the opportunity to set the pace that she wanted. My son was between us and we formed a little “bike bus.” On Bourke Road, I asked my daughter to stop for a moment and asked my son to sit in the cargo bike again. Why? Sunday traffic was heavier than I had expected, the cycleway barriers were not continuous and my son’s swerving on the very low balance bike was beginning to unnerve me. After a moment of discussion, he agreed.
The rain was growing heavier as we arrived at the ice skating rink on Gardeners Road. We locked up and resumed our journey. The kids stayed warm and dry under the canopy. I was wearing my rain gear which was doing the same. Google Maps terrible bicycle function suggested Canal Road. I ended up on its footpath because of its congestion and high speed. Eventually the footpath next to the road became unpassable when attempting to cross Alexandria Canal. I had to abort. I chose a safe moment to cross four lanes of traffic to cycle on the left side of the road. On the Princes Highway, I rode on the footpath.
Our bellies empty, Ikea meatballs for lunch beckoned. It seemed as though the rest of Sydney had the same idea. We ate and then wandered around the faux home tableaux that Ikea has so cleverly crafted for those of us with kids and a desire to create more space. We also like to come to Ikea without my husband because he tends to glaze over. It’s too much for him. One Mother’s Day weekend last year, we went together to the shop with the kids and found it to be curiously empty. The indicator species for Ikea is…
We found our glasses, some pretty napkins, scented candles and biscuits. I tucked the items under the seat and around the kids feet.
We returned to the ice skating rink to pick up the bicycles. It was pouring with rain now. My son stayed in the cabin with the balance bike. My daughter set the pace again on the cycleway. At some point, she was cycling very slowly. I pulled up next to her and saw that she was nearly in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She was cold. I wrapped my scarf around her neck and chest and zipped up her jacket. I suggested she cycle a little faster to stay warm. She did and we made it to Prince Alfred Park in our neighbourhood quickly.
His time will come!
My daughter thanked me for the scarf and said that she felt better. I could see that she felt a degree of accomplishment at having ridden 14km today. My son wanted to ride home despite the rain. My husband met us at home. He was tired and hungry but in good spirits after his own long and wet ride. He too was very impressed at how far our daughter had bicycled today. We had a warming roast dinner that evening and toasted our day.
A few tips for transitioning your child to a larger bicycle?
- Are you riding enough to be setting a good example? If you are staring at your device (or driving) more than bicycling (to buy milk or to go the office), you may have an uphill battle getting your child to consider riding their own bicycle.
- Have a destination or a reason for bicycling to your destination. Incentive works! eg. Food, friend’s house for a play, going to the shops, climbing/trampoline centre or playground.
- Build distance slowly. Go for a few shorter rides around the block and then a little farther each week.
- Stay attuned to your child’s comfort. Fit the bicycle to your child for the initial short rides.
- Tell your kids about simple road rules while on the footpath, cycleway or the quiet road early on and why it’s important to follow them. I always say that it’s not fun being squashed by a car. Funny, yet horrifying, I know. “Squashed” is a funny word for kids.
- When crossing the street on foot, teach your children how to look for traffic and to double check. Do the same while bicycling and continue to remind them.