My husband and I bought a baby seat for my bike. We did it after several weeks of debate, and many trips to local bike stores. I thought getting a baby seat for my bike would be beneficial for several reasons. I figured that biking to places we’d normally drive, such as Kroger or the playground would make a teeny-tiny dent in my daily rants about gas prices and what is wrong with this world. I thought biking would be a great way to get rid of some of my arm fat, and I also thought biking would, in some small way, model to my Mr. Independent 15 month old that mama takes exercising and living a healthy lifestyle seriously. In my mind, if I started modeling healthy habits now, rather than when Mr. Independent is 8 or 10 or 15 and wants nothing to do with me, they will just be ingrained in him. He won’t know anything other than daily exercise and mostly healthy eating.
So we bought the bike seat and a basket and helmets for me and Mr. Independent. My husband spent several hours installing the seat, after I spent several hours nagging him about installing the seat. Then Mr. Independent and I went out for our first wobbly ride. We stuck to the neighborhood and did a few laps while my husband sat on the porch grading papers and cheering us on. A few days later we did a more extensive (scary) ride, and while biking hasn’t completely become the norm, Mr. Independent and I are getting close. He generally loves going on the bike, and he even brings me his helmet in what I think is an attempt to tell me that he wants to go for a ride, now, Mama!
In all honesty, biking with a toddler is annoying. Or maybe it’s just biking with my toddler that’s annoying. He throws the center of balance off. I get judged from drivers, pedestrians, and bikers who don’t have a toddler attached to their seat. Mr. Independent thinks it’s an awesome idea to lift the back of my shirt up and pretend to tickle me while I’m wobbling and tettering up a hill. Or down a hill. He head butts me with his helmet, leans forward and shoves his helmeted head into my lower back with a surprising amount of force for a 15 month old. And sometimes, he thinks it’s a great thing to stick his hands down the back of my pants. I am in no way making any of this up. But despite all of this, it is rewarding to see the huge smile on his face and hear his tiny voice say “weeeeeeeeeeeeee!” or “daaa-aawg!” as we pedal through our city.
We biked to Kroger and back this afternoon. As I huffed and puffed our way up a hill, listening to Mr. Independent sing his version of the alphabet song (a-douba-g-douba-g-douba-g, in case anyone was wondering) I started to worry: Am I doing the wrong thing by putting him in a bike seat or in the stroller? I started to over analyze. What if, by putting my child in a seat, I’m teaching him passivity rather than modeling exercise for him? What if rather than teaching Mr. Independent the importance of exercise and going green in our own special way, I’m teaching him to sit on his butt and rely on someone or something to get him where he wants to go?
I tried to look at my concern objectively. Mr. Independent is only 15 months old. It’s not like he can have his own bike or run a 5k with me. When I take him to the playground, he plays pretty hard, so that probably counts as exercise. He dances all the time. I guess that counts, too. So then I tried to come up with age appropriate forms of daily exercise. The best I could do was resolving to take a daily walk with him. With him walking. I thought around the block was an appropriate distance for a 15 month old. I thought wrong. After dinner, I put Mr. Independent’s shoes (in his words, doos) on and told him we were going for a walk, only we weren’t going for a walk in the stroller. We were going for a walk, and he was going to walk. I informed him that it is important to exercise because exercise helps us to keep our bodies and minds healthy. Then I told him that the rule for going on a walk was that he had to hold Mama’s hand. That worked well until we got to the bottom of the porch steps. He spent the rest of the walk trying to wrestle himself from my grasp and wander into neighbor’s driveways and yards. I made threats such as, if you don’t hold Mama’s hand, then you will be carried. He called my bluff, and 2/3 of the way around the block, I had a fussing, squirming 22 pound contortionist in my arms, kicking, flailing, and shaking his head no.
I carried Mr. Independent the rest of the way home, let him play in the backyard some, and then tried to take him on a walk again. We got about 3 houses away before he bit me for holding his hand.
Exercising with a kid is tough. Showing a kid the importance of exercise is even tougher. I will make this work.