The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 18, 2008


One mom, two kids, five wheels

So far, this is shaping up to be The Summer of the Bike.

This is due to the confluence of several factors. For the first time in four years, I’m based at home rather than in an office as my kids’ school vacation begins. The new footpaths make it possible for us to travel from our house to the library, the school, two ballfields and two playgrounds without ever setting tire to highway if we don’t wish to. (“Share the road” is a great motto for drivers and cyclists, but being able to avoid that kind of sharing when you have two young children is a relief as well.) And lastly, just a couple of months ago we located a “Tagalong” attachment for my five-year-old, one of those seat-and-tire contraptions that hitches on to an adult bike so that a child can ride behind as if on a tandem bike.

Finding the Tagalong attachment was in itself a triumph of Luddite simplicity, to my mind. A year ago, I set out on the same quest – but I did it virtually. I posted an ad on the buy-and-sell web site Craigslist asking anyone with such an attachment to contact me. I heard from a second-hand bike store in Arlington that was selling them for $5 off the list price, and I heard from a friendly but ultimately unhelpful person in western Massachusetts who said that she was looking for the same item. Biking season passed, and I gave up on the quest.

This spring I tried a different tack: I put an ad in the Mosquito. Literally within hours of publication, I’d received four or five calls for people offering us theirs – and all were within a five-mile drive. Holly is now the proud owner of the bike formerly ridden by second-grader Asa Szegvari. We not only ended up with what we wanted but didn’t have to travel far to get it.

So the kids and I have been doing a lot of biking: Tim, at age 9, strong and capable on his own two wheels, me pumping as hard as I can on my slightly heavy, slightly cumbersome but extremely convenient extended bike and five-year-old Holly pedaling merrily along behind me, delighted with the sense of self-importance she attains by being part of the engine that drives us.

For me, it’s liberating. My husband and I loved biking in our pre-parenting days; it was one of the few sports we had in common. Even with child seats and trailers, biking with very young children is difficult and often feels not all that safe. So this is the first year in the past decade that I feel like I’m getting my fill of biking. Between being home-based rather than office-based, having two capable kids, and feeling triumphant about beating the high price of gas – even if it’s just for the mile-long trip up to the library – we’re all huge fans of biking this summer.

Of course, it’s not just fun; it’s metaphorical. It’s a lot like parenting. Pedaling my bike with Holly attached to it is a lot harder than biking all by myself, but it’s easier than carrying her or trying to get her to walk the same distance. And it’s more interesting. Like any five-year-old, she feels proud when she thinks she’s doing her part to keep up. Just as with many aspects of parenting, there are times when I really, really wish I could get back on a solo bike and just take a really quick ride somewhere, either to get there fast and efficiently or for the benefit of being all by myself for a few minutes while I’m there, or both. But, also like parenting, having to pedal for both of us makes me realize how much Holly is enjoying the ride and benefiting from the experience.

There’s another benefit too, one I’m just beginning to discover. Last week the three of us were riding up to the post office when we hit a level stretch of road. I coasted. And coasted. And then began to notice that I was coasting much farther than it seemed I should be able to given the particular cant of the road.

Mom!” Tim called out from behind me. “Holly’s doing, like, all the pedaling for you! You’re not doing anything!”

Well, no mom likes to be told she’s not doing anything, especially since it’s almost never true. But at that moment, Tim was right. Holly was carrying me. I was coasting while she pedaled. It was a first, and a most welcome one. I love pedaling with Holly behind; I love carrying her weight if it means we can both be outside having fun.

But once in a while I can let her pedal while I coast. I’ve waited a long time for the privilege of having my kids do the pedaling for me. And this summer, I plan to enjoy it all I can. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito