We're in the midst of a self-imposed hiatus from writing new blog material, as we're busy hustling behind-the-scenes on our first full-length book. But rather than suffer through total radio silence, we thought it would be fun to periodically revisit old articles we've published over the years, many of which are no longer available online. The following, written by Melissa, originally appeared on the G Day Blog on February 17th, 2014.
We all love our daughters. We want them to grow up to be strong, independent women, capable of meeting every challenge head on. Not to be scared, not to doubt themselves and never to think there's something they can't do. Mothers are particularly aware of this, knowing firsthand what challenges await their girls as they go from being adorable little princesses and tomboys to awkward teenagers and young women. So why is it, when we want all these positive things for our girls, that we continue to focus on all the things they need to be afraid of?
There are veritable dangers out there that all kids need to be mindful of, but as I watch my daughter and her friends grow, I have become aware that there are a lot of other so-called dangers that perhaps we need to take a step back from. We need to realize that if we give them credit, our girls will prove that they are capable of taking responsibility for their own health and safety.
For our family, riding a bike is always in the forefront. My seven-year-old daughter has now been riding solo for almost three years, and doing so on the road for well over two. Each time we ride, I take the opportunity to teach her how to ride defensively, to be aware of the cars and pedestrians around her, and to always follow the rules of the road. While I have had my moments of panic, I have tried my hardest to not make riding a bike a terrifying experience for her. Because it isn't. I have been riding a bike since I was her age, and while I’ve always been aware of my fellow road users, since my own childhood, I have never felt that riding a bike was too dangerous. I instead, focus on the fact that what we are doing is very good for our health, keeping our bodies active and our hearts strong.
A while back, I read a report discussing how by the age of 13 to 14, many young girls are likely to stop riding their bikes. One of the reasons they stop is because they are afraid of getting hurt while doing something physical. The thing they seem to forget is that riding a bike is so easy, and the chances that you will get hurt just riding to and from school or to meet a friend are very slim.
As our girls grow, it’s so important to help empower them so they are ready for their teenage years. Learning to ride a bike is the first step to gaining independence, and the act of riding a bike is the ultimate in freedom, creating so much joy for nearly every rider I know, young and old alike. For a child, they no longer have to hold their parent's hand while they're riding a bike, and only they can steer, slow down or stop their bike. If you think about it, that is a huge sense of responsibility for a child, and I know it makes them feel so proud that they are able to accomplish all this on their own.
Among the many reason to ride a bike, we don’t seem to talk enough about the health benefits to riding a bike. Having been a teenage girl once, I remember all too well the stress of worrying about how I looked; my hair, my skin, and of course, my weight. I did ride from time to time to get to school, but not nearly enough. Had I known back then that just 30 minutes a day would be the easiest way to stay fit, keep off any extra weight from stress eating, and the endorphins released from riding a bike would leave me feeling alive and happy, I likely would have done it almost daily.
Ladies out there, we all know we're strong enough to do just about anything. It's about time we start passing on that confidence to our girls. We need to stop teaching them that danger is waiting for them around every corner. All we're doing is raising our daughters to doubt themselves and their abilities. We need to teach them ways to stay healthy and safe in a way that is preparing them to be independent. For those with daughters that ride, we need to maintain that joy they feel as children all through their growing years, so that when they reach their teens, they keep riding because they know it's no more dangerous than walking to meet their friends, and in fact, a lot quicker and good for their health. The best way to start fostering that is keep riding with them, give them moments of independence, and share your joy on two wheels with them every chance you get!