The Tricycle

When my children were younger I wrote a weekly column, “Modern Parenting” for The Pembroke Observer newspaper. Being a stay-at-home dad was rare in our small town in 1991; people wanted to hear about my adventures. When I started this blog I promised to republish some of those old pieces, then I got sidetracked. 

 Today I’m revisiting one of the articles that I think has stood the test of time. Or at least is a change of pace. I don’t intend to do much in the way of editing, but may make the odd comment in italics. This post was first published July 19, 1992.

Paul was stricken by a strange malady a couple of months back – he lost the ability to walk.

We haven’t panicked though, nor have we consulted a doctor, because the cause of the problem is obvious. For his third birthday he was given a tricycle, and it’s been difficult to pry him off ever since.

The timing was great. The walk to the grocery store can be a bit long for him, depending on how much he’s done previously that day, and he’s just too heavy for my shoulders.

We did have a stroller, but after seeing heavy use in five countries on three continents it gave up the ghost and I don’t think it can be repaired. Paul saw the demise of the stroller as a minor problem. Daddy could carry him places.

He remembers that when he was much younger and a lot lighter he used to spend all his time on my shoulders when we went places.  He couldn’t walk, and during the year we spent in Africa passable roads were the exception to the rule, so we didn’t use the stroller all that much. (I had planned on carrying him strapped to my chest using a baby carrier we had brought with us, but that would not have been culturally acceptable. So onto the shoulders he went.)

Coming back to Canada we continued that habit since it was easier and faster than the stroller.  It was also rather amusing to see people’s reactions.

Paul started riding on my shoulders at about three months old.  It took him a week or so to realize that Daddy didn’t like to have his hair pulled.  Within a month his balance was good enough that he no longer bothered to use his hands to hold on: he knew I wouldn’t let go of his legs.

In Canada most of the children we saw on their parents’ shoulders were hanging on for dear life.  Paul would be waving his hands merrily and pointing to things.  When he got tired he’d just go to sleep. If we were on a long walk it wasn’t uncommon for him to nap for half an hour or so on my shoulders, his head slumped forward and snoring into my ear.  That’s usually when passersby would stop me to make sure I knew he was asleep. (They couldn’t understand how he could possibly sleep in that position, nor why I was so unconcerned. Occasionally he would flop backward, but I had a firm grip, he never fell off.)

So now we go places by tricycle.  It’s not as fast as walking, owing to reduced speed on hills, but we get there. There are no more cries of “Daddy carry me”.

Some days we’ll spend hours on the deck of our apartment building, a nice 50 foot by 20 foot fenced in area that makes a great tricycle course for Paul and for Adam, his friend from across the hall who owns an identical tricycle. (Twenty-four years later Paul and Adam are still buddies.)

The advent of the tricycle has also seen us reviewing the rules of the road with him.  In the car he’s a back seat driver, always telling us about stop signs and traffic lights.  When we go for walks he’s always been aware of traffic lights.

But the tricycle is a new adventure.  For the first little while he had to be reminded that at corners he has to look both ways to make sure there is no traffic coming.  He had to be warned not to get too close to the edge of the sidewalk.  Not that it’s really crucial at this point, he’s not allowed out without an adult, but it’s good to get road safety rules ingrained from the beginning.

That way when he graduates to a bigger tricycle (next year at the rate he’s growing) we’ll be more confident about his abilities. And when he’s ready for a bicycle he’ll already be a responsible driver.  I wonder how long it will be before he wants to drive the car? (He had to wait until he was legal age, 16.)

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