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The Lifestlye: Childhood Nastalgia

Welcome to the Good Life

Enjoy this tale of a simpler time. Reminds me of my childhood riding around on my bike, my big wheel, playing roller hockey, eating junk food, burning things, playing video games - It's really amazing how little I've changed! No room for improvement I guess. The original link is here.


Helmets? We didn’t need no stinking helmets

The other day, my daughter Gustavo (not her real name) said she was heading outside to ride her bike. I don’t mind it when she rides her bike – exercise is a good thing – but I have to admit, I find the experience to be a little unsettling as well. Lots of things can go wrong when a kid is riding a bike. She could fall. She could get hit by a car. She could, I don’t know, be attacked by squirrels. My point is, as a parent, bicycles are just a tiny bit nerve-wracking.

Our rule about bikes is that the girls can’t ride anywhere but on our street, which is short enough that I can see the entire length of it from our front porch. If I go outside and I can’t see them, I crack open an ice-cold can of Crabby Daddy.

Same goes for riding without helmets, although that rule is a little bit squishier because the kids complain that their helmets don’t stay on their heads very well. And you know, they’re right. Their helmets bounce around on their heads and slide to the back all the time. This is because, for the life of me, I can’t get the stupid straps on those helmets adjusted properly.

I like to think of myself as a pretty bright guy. I got good grades in school, have a good job, can recite all the lyrics to “Bust A Move.” But I cannot figure out bicycle helmet straps. If I make one longer, it makes two other straps shorter. I adjust those other straps, and the first one shortens again. It’s enough to make a grown man want to buy a sledge hammer just to use it (screaming maniacally the entire time, naturally) to smash the helmets to bits.

Because I can’t figure out the dumb straps, I sometimes let the kids ride without helmets if they promise to go slow and stay even closer to the house. No, the pavement near our house is not softer than it is down the street. Somehow in my head this rule makes sense anyway. Maybe I figure I can get them to the hospital more quickly if it came down to that.

I know, I know. Horrified parents and public-safety officials everywhere are shrieking at their monitors right now and hammering out angry e-mails to tell me that I should never ever let children ride bicycles without helmets. I might as well have just admitted to allowing the kids to surf on top of the car whenever we’re on an interstate. That’s right. I let my kids ride without helmets and I love feeding bean burritos to colicky babies.

Here’s the thing: I know I shouldn’t let the kids ride without helmets. I’ve read the statistics and the stories. I don’t like letting them ride without helmets. I feel like a bad parent. I know that I need to take the kids to a bike store and ask them to help me adjust the straps on their helmets so they fit right. Which I intend to do…er, one of these days…when I have time…at some point.

Whenever I get like this – all freaked out about safety hazard related to my kids – it always makes me think about how different things were when I was a kid. To this day, I have never owned a bicycle helmet. (I haven’t ridden a bike at all in close to 20 years.)

When I was a kid, I lived on my bike. My kids ride theirs maybe one hour a week. I’d ride mine two hours a day. I’d ride it six hours a day in the summer. All I did was ride my bike. I’d race my friends, do wheelies in driveways, ride hands-free, you name it. Never once did it occur to anyone in my family to strap a helmet on my head.

I had my share of accidents, too. I once did a wheelie that was so overloaded with awesomeness it just kept on going until I landed on my spine. Another time I fell off my bike while pedaling as fast as I could. Scraped and bloodied darn near my entire body. Didn’t break a bone, because God watches over babies and morons, but still.

If any of these things happened to one of my girls, I’d be traumatized for life. I can still remember how bad I felt when Gustavo was three years old and fell in the driveway, re-opening a scab that had just started healing. (I am haunted by the sound of her screaming, “My boo-boo! My boo-boo!”) That scrape was the size of a quarter, at best, and I acted like her ribs were poking out through her eye sockets.

What did my parents do when they saw my coming through the front door, sobbing hysterically and covered in dirt and blood? They cleaned me up, gave me a pat on the head, and held the door open for me as I ran back through it to find more dirt and blood. That’s how it was done in 1978.

It’s just different these days. I don’t want my kids going past the end of our street. It makes me nervous, and I simply won’t allow it. When I was a kid, though, I would walk a mile and a half to the mall and spend two hours playing in the arcade. By myself. My friends and I would play football in the middle of the lake near our houses when it froze over in the winter. I rode my bike for miles along Lindbergh Boulevard to buy comic books. In the summers, I’d dash out of the house after breakfast and not come back until dinner time. My parents would have no clue where I was, what I was doing, or what I was eating. I’d come home covered in grass stains or poison ivy or dog poop and my parents would just clean me up and feed me meatloaf. No questions asked, no answers offered.

If my kids did any of those things, I’d lose my mind. I’d reach right past the cans of Crabby Daddy and pull out a six-pack of Apoplectic Daddy. I’d spend a day on Wikipedia researching how to adequately punish the children. Disappearing from the house to destinations unknown for three hours? I’m sorry, but you’re going to spend the night duct-taped to the living room wall, and while you’re stuck there you can just think about what you’ve done.

It’s just different these days. Maybe it’s better. Maybe it’s not. Hell if I know. Either way, I guess it’s time to figure out how to fix the kids’ bike helmets.

Bob Rybarczyk ( writes stuff. He wants to be Hellboy when he grows up, mostly because Hellboy has a prehensile tail. Look for his novel, “Acoustic Kitty,” ($15.95) at Amazon and other online booksellers. Drop him a line to sign up for his handy FringeMail reminder service. And now, look for him on Facebook.
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