Practical Dad

Notes on Bicycle Safety - When Junior’s Not On the Same Level

Not all kids develop their skills at the same rate and that runs the gamut of activities.  Some are poor at hand-eye coordination while those who excel at that are lousy at gross motor skills.  That's the case with all three of the kids here and notably the case with Youngest's bicycle skills.  That's normally something that doesn't worry me but when other kids are riding on the neighborhood streets and he's still uncertain with his balance and skills, then I have to pay particular attention.

Youngest is far and away a big boy, head-and-shoulder above his classmates and is wearing hand-me-down clothing that his older brother wore when he was three years older than Youngest is now.  Judging from the commentary of a physical therapist friend - who specializes in balance issues - that growth has impacted the balance skills which simply haven't caught up and compensated for the larger body.  I haven't pressed the issue and have let him set the pace for the past two years; we'd go to the local playground and ride around while he slowly learned his skills and it's been in the last three weeks that he's finally mastered the skills.

The issue that arose last week was his wish to ride back to his friend's house and then ride with the friend and family to a neighborhood playground.  I've done no practical road skills with him apart from talking about road rules and that doesn't qualify as prepared.  He desperately wanted to go, especially since this child will sometimes taunt if someone's skills don't measure his, but I refused and dropped him off at the friend's house with his Razor Scooter.  That's not so far-fetched I figured, since there are any number of neighborhood teens who ride their Razors and do stunts with them.  It worked on that occasion but the occasion will arise again and he needs to be prepared.  The other aspect is that road safety and skills are my responsibility and not that of some other parent; taking a child on the road involves issues of legal liability and that's my problem.

So tonight began the road rules practicum.  We started with the rules discussion before we even left the driveway: 

  • Ride on the right side with the traffic;
  • Stop at every stop sign and look both ways AND behind;
  • Wear a helmet at all times;
  • Know the hand signs for right, left and stop;
  • Know the surrounding traffic and don't think that they know you;
  • Ride single file but stay in front of me where I can see you.

After discussing the rules, we talked about the route and what we'd do, then we left. 

On one level, this shouldn't be about "keeping up with the developmentally advanced Joneses".  Over the next week, we'll take progressively longer road trips and will continue until I'm comfortable that he's mastered the road skills.  But on the other hand, when he's got the balance and riding issues down pat, then it's my responsibility to help take him over the final hump and that might mean that I have to take extra time to assure that it's done properly.  When I'm comfortable that he's there, then I'll turn him loose with the friend and family.  And if he's still not there, I can at least honestly say that he needs some additional work but has the basics down pat.

I won't push the skills faster than they seem to be capable of going, but once they're there, I have to be ready to make the time to finish the job.

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