When was the last time you spent time reconnecting as a family? I am the first person to admit that when the whisper of “mummy” at 5.15am only gives me approximately 15 minutes of cuddles before his little eyes just need to open and his day starts, that I agree to the iPad. Who doesn’t love 3/4 of an hour more blissful, indulgent sleep? It probably goes down in the parenting handbook as a big no-no and something that should be nipped in the bud early on in the piece. But if that is my parenting fail I may as well admit defeat now. And if I am going to go down the shameful screen time path, both my husband and I are guilty ourselves of the time we spend on our phones.
In saying this and letting all my secrets out as a parent, I do feel that if on the weekend (and we do limit gaming screen time to just the weekend) it is done at this ungodly hour, this then leaves the rest of the day to get out there and achieve quality family good times. The kids now have more and more homework that is on the screen, just in the last week we are now reading books on the computer. It blows my mind how involved in screen time they will be further along in their teenage years, but for now I have some control over it.
According to the Department of Health, only 1/3 of children and 1 in 10 young people spend less than the 60 minutes that is recommended outdoors. And nearly 70% of adults either don’t move at all or partake in low levels of physical activity.
The weekends are precious times. The weeks are so busy fitting sport, homework, and running our business that it doesn’t leave much time for hanging out as a family. My husband and I plan our weekends. I exercise either early or late and he does the other time slot which means during the day we can spend time as a family doing stuff we love to do, like getting out of the house and into the great outdoors. My son has taken to bike riding (just like his dad) like a duck to water and often father and son bonding time is a bike ride around town or the local bike track. As for me, well, I have been asked on numerous occasions why there is so much rust on my bike in the garage. I squirm when the kids ask this as I am always telling them to try new things and give things a go! And here is my bike rusted and unused and has been for some time. My husband explains the joy and sense of freedom he has on his bike, particularly after work. It helps him unwind being out in nature and flying along negotiating the tracks as he goes.
My daughter is a bit more like her mummy. We purchased the bike with the pink tassels and the pink basket and thought this would be an absolute win for her, but her bike has almost the same amount of cobwebs on it as mine. After a few decent falls she also now lacks the confidence to ride and it doesn’t help that mummy doesn’t join in.
Kids won’t remember the moments on the television shows.
We had the opportunity to check out Sydney Park Cycling Centre and the beautiful park surrounding the centre and thought it was the perfect place for me to get back on the saddle, plus I wanted to show the kids I could join in the fun too. Another huge factor was my daughter to get back that confidence riding her bike. Riding bikes and climbing trees is a huge childhood memory for many of us so to be able to do this as a family seemed like a great way to spend the day. The kids thought it was fantastic that mum was going to join in and we would all go together.
Things got off to a very rocky start. The moment I put my daughter on the bike she started screaming. She just didn’t want to be on it, she was terrified of falling off and nothing I could say was going to change her mind. I tried again and again but it wasn’t any good. My husband thought it best we just left it and he and my son could ride, and my daughter and I could just sit and wait. This family day wasn’t going well and I had really been looking forward to trying a bike again myself. She was terrified and I had to be patient and I didn’t want to just give up.
We had an appointment with Rob from the Sydney Park Cycling centre for a Ride with Kids course and we had a chat with him about what he thought could be great for us after I explained the stage both kids were at. The cycleway has free balance bike clinics for children 3 to 8 years old and we thought this might be just what little miss needed. Her feet flat on the ground instead of pedals while we rebuilt her confidence. The negotiation was challenging and tough. Rob suggested that I get a balance bike too to show little miss how easy it was going to be and how fun. She wasn’t convinced even seeing my feet flat on the ground and pushing myself around. After 20 minutes of solid angle working from all 3 of us, it became apparent that parenting no-no number 3 was going to be needed. Bribery. Ice cream bribery. The eyes looked up and deliberated and finally she sat on the balance bike.
There is a fantastic undercover area where the balance bike clinics are held. Little miss was able to just push around slowly with other beginners and just feel safe that her feet were flat on the ground. Rob talked with her and showed her how to glide with her feet and eventually try and lift her feet off the ground for short bursts that could get longer. Within one hour of being there, we had gone from a frightened screaming child to a little girl that was smiling and showing me how great she was even yelling out at one point
“I did it!”
The smile on her face lit the sky and I can’t begin to explain how proud she was of herself and we, of course, gave her oodles and oodles of praise. I was so proud of her and so after that, she and I spent the next hour cruising around, going a little further along the pathways, gaining a bit more speed and gliding. We laughed, hi-fived a lot and both enjoyed gliding up and down together. The whole experience was a lovely moment and I even think my mouth was a little sore from smiling so much.
In the meantime, my son and husband got to explore a bit further afield. The park is full of people and families, a kiosk and has a cycleway around the outside and through the park. They got to negotiate the back streets of Sydney, which as a young rider who will eventually tackle the roads himself one day was fantastic for him to make sure he knew the rules and to be aware of at this stage sharing the footpaths but later on knowing the road rules. He was taught about breaking properly and good riding positions. And he also loved riding around a particular area where roads were painted and traffic lights installed within the park itself.
The highlight of my day was how much we all individually and as a family got out of it. The ability for some of us to step out of our comfort zones and tackle our fears and to take on new challenges. For some it was to remember the simple pleasures of riding a bike, feeling the wind in your hair and being able to look around and enjoy your surroundings while with your family. We spent time together, we got out and about and explored and some of us went further and wider because we could on a bike.
So we did sit down for that ice cream at the end and that was where I had a parenting/wife win. I did tell my husband and the kids that I was sad I had let my bike get rusty because it was actually super fun and I really, really enjoyed it. Riding a bike is something you don’t forget but you do forget how great it feels and how much fun you can have. The best bit is, we can do it as a family and the kids think that is pretty fantastic.
We did unplug and reconnected with the great outdoors and with ourselves and that is the best connection of all