Thursday, January 5, 2012

where's my skill badge?!?!?

Today both kids had dentist appointments at 8:30am.  The dentist's office is relatively close, maybe four miles?  Five?  It's a decent dentist but part of the allure was that the guy was within bicycle range.  So this morning Contraption Captain and I roll out with Rapunzel in a wagon and Sparkle Pony on her own bicycle.  The cars don't display any more idiocy than usual and the route is pretty sane, a decent bicycle lane the entire way.

I don't unbend even fractionally.  Any car approaching the line, any truck flowing too far to the right, the slightest indication of inattention and the hairs rise on my neck.  From the outside it's hard to tell that I really enjoy bicycling but I do, and I'd never bike with kids if I did not love to bicycle myself and if I did not want to model safe habits.  "Bicycling makes you strong" I tell them "Bicycling makes me happy."

I found myself thinking of the Adafruit skill badges.  Contraption Captain has effortlessly earned nearly all of these, and I bought him a handful.  For the girls I purchased skill badges for Dumpster Diving, an activity at which they excel and now you know what stocking stuffers look like in our household.

I want a skill badge for bicycling with children.  Even in good areas it is a little scary to be out with these giant heavy rolling machines that can be driven by anyone, drunk or sober, who has reached sixteen years.  Despite having to watch giant garbage trucks roll by a little too close or having to see huge SUVs pass by driving in the lane for oncoming traffic, when you are out with your kids you can't curse.  In fact, you need to smile.  You need to project "bicycling is fan-fucking-tastic" with every turn of your cranks.  I do a mediocre job of this probably because while attempting to project how wonderful it is to bicycle I am also projecting a low level menace for all automobiles.

Today went pretty well.  The ride itself was indeed beautiful, the sky a deep and endless blue.  The ride back from the dentist was quiet.  All was calm and we were heading up Sand Hill Road.  The left arrow was green, I knew the green for straight would follow.  Sparkle Pony pushed hard past me and towards the intersection.  I watched her align herself perfectly with the bike lane.  As she approached, the light for straight turned to green, yay!  Great timing Sparkle!  You go girlfriend!

Then she stopped.  I did not collide with her.  Which is good.  I called "keep going!  keep going!"  Looking at me with the eyes of a startled fawn she started forward again.  We both went through the green light.  Yay.  I asked her why she stopped.  She said (not unreasonably) that she wanted to wait for me.  

None of this would matter at all except that the constant presence of cars flowing past us (on both sides at this spot) means that I never really unwind.  I wish it were different.


  1. I have a very well developed "startle" reflex. I'm constantly gasping or flinching if I drop something in the kitchen or the workshop in a way that makes people think that I've just cut my finger off.

    So I know what you mean about your hyper-vigilance and how you can be that way, and yet still enjoy the ride.

    Although biking with kids you need to seem less ambivalent about the contradiction, and simultaneously more vigilant. And it's hard to talk about it without bringing out the "How dare you let your children go anywhere except in a padded box" people. Yes a merit badge is well deserved.