Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Back on the Bus

I wrote this back in March--when it was still winter jacket and fleecey headwear weather.

Parenting involves many sacrifices: sleepless nights, mountains of laundry, the invasion of primary colors. But the true measure of my dedication to my son is that I have been willing to get back on the bus, even for—shudder—short trips.

When my husband, a fellow cyclist, and I became parents, we dutifully parked our bikes in favor of slings, strollers, walks and busses. But as soon as Miguel’s neck could handle a helmet and Chicago’s potholes, we returned to our bike-dependent ways.

We expected Miguel to share our enthusiasm for the pedaling lifestyle. Alas, bus, not bike, was one of his first words. Given a choice, he picks four fat tires over two skinny ones every time.

He’s on to something. In many ways, hauling him by bike is no better for his development than sticking him in a car seat. While we exercise, he’s sitting. While we focus on traffic, he’s ignored. By contrast, transit journeys involve walking, talking and a huge, loud, interesting vehicle.

If we want Miguel, now 2 ½, to become self-propelled, we need to let him use his legs. So, we are slowing down and mixing up the modes. We bike to day care, but let him walk a few blocks back. We walk to a friend’s house and incorporate a bus on the return—even if only for two stops. For a trip downtown, we sprint ten blocks to the train, using the bike trailer turned jogger, and meander home at his pace.

Slowing down is not easy. But transportation choices with kids are about more than getting to destinations, they are about helping them become strong and independent. All too soon, Miguel will be pedaling to his own adventures. Until then, I am savoring holding his hand at the bus stop.