Family bike ride exposes leadership issues

What could be more family-oriented and relaxing than a nice, quiet bicycle ride together after dinner?  Having tried it, I’d have to say “just about anything else!” However, if your goal with bike riding is to get your blood pumping and your blood pressure elevated (whether you get any actual exercise), the family plan will do the trick.

It’s always the same: Predictably awful in various ways. First there are the kids teasing to go before they complete the tasks I use bike riding to leverage them to do. What better way to assure Connor picks up his Army play gear and Kate cleans the cat box?

Instead of action, I receive verbal IOUs the chores will get done as soon as we get back. They promise. Scouts honor. Only neither is a scout. And I’ve heard this all before. Nightly. I take out my driver’s license and verify I was indeed born in 1963, not yesterday. Get over it, kids. Do the chores NOW.  I busy myself with doing the dishes. They continue to carp over their assignments.

Second, there’s the fight that ensues as they go to liberate their bicycles from captivity. Whose turn is it to unlock the cable that binds them? Who gets to carry the key? Who has to run it back to the house? Whose bike comes out first? Who really cares?! It’s anything but carefree.

Uh oh. Soft tire. Where did they put the air pump after the last use? It’s not where it’s supposed to be on the porch behind the bottle bin. Ah, seems they used it last week to make hissing noises to scare the cat. That explains why it’s now outside, in the under-the- hedge playhouse, next to the hose reel that also shouldn’t be there.

What if I’d been home alone, unable to find it without their guidance, thwarted from a much-needed bike ride due to an unfixable flat? “But that DIDN’T happen, did it?” Connor points out, bursting my overly-dramatic, hypothetical bubble, suggesting I get over it.

Third comes the helmet battle. I resist the urge to whap Kate in the head for not wanting to wear her expensive head protection. I decide to wait until she dons the helmet, which, curiously, somehow got returned to the hook on which it’s supposed to reside. She must have wanted some special privilege she could leverage only through obedience.

“But it will mess up my hair,” Kate protests next. I state the bathtub is the only place she will be going following the ride. No audience there, so get over it. She changes tactics and claims the strap hurts her ears. I counter that she rarely uses them for listening, so that’s negligible. Why don’t we just shave her head like Connor’s? She shuts up.

At last we’re ready to go. Except for the water bottles Connor insists we can’t leave home without. “We’re only riding a couple of miles,” I remind. But his self-imposed military readiness training will not let him leave without adequate provisions. I cajole him into just one water bottle, the one that rests in the holder on my bicycle.

Now Kate wants to carry her own small water bottle in her shiny pink bicycle handlebar zipper pack. I tell her we’re not going to waste any more time getting it. We instead waste time addressing Connor’s unfairness concerns that no handlebar pack came with his bike. I tell him to get over it because his bicycle cost me $20 more than Kate’s, so he actually got the better deal. Better deal? Hrmph! This sets off Kate again with accusations that I like him better. In unison, Connor and I tell her to get over it.

Daylight is fading when we finally hit the road. Connor shoots out ahead with a burst of speed. Kate shrieks it should be her turn to lead. I bring up the rear, shouting “car” each time I hear one approach from behind. Five minutes in, it starts to sprinkle, so we head back home. “Who’s the leader?” I shout into the rising wind. Clearly not me. If only I could get over it.

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