Thursday, May 16, 2013

The true cost of racing my children

What's the true cost of racing children?  Not "raising", mind you: "racing".

Me, since March, I've been paying the boyos a-quarter-a-mile to do errands with me via bike instead of via automobile.  I chose this number for convenience's sake; with two kids in on the deal, I'm shelling out a bit less than the IRS says is the reimbursable cost of car commuting.  And I'm getting some bang for my buck (fortunately, the "bang" isn't literal crashes).

The money, at this point, is nearly irrelevant.  I pay it anyway.  I miss the days I gave the kiddos an allowance with "Mommy Dollars", an utterly fictitious currency over which I had exclusive control.  But the boys've graduated to wanting things that Mommy can't buy (or at least, that Mommy Dollars can't buy), and so I give them a pittance of an allowance in spendable U.S. currency.  The allowance comes with weekly lectures on the importance of generosity and of saving, so it's not exactly easy money, and truth be told, there's not much there to give or save.  So the chance to earn a little on the side is welcome to them.   And we've learned a lot of good stuff since we started this.

For one thing, there's the math lesson.  My boys constantly surprise me with how little they remember of their arithmetic.  If I say we've gone 6 miles, how much money do they get?  The boys, they squirm.  They wriggle.  They guess: "Six dollars?"  So in recent months, we've resurrected the old rhyming chant I taught them long ago to teach them their four-times multiplication table:
Sixteen, twenty,
twenty four, twenty eight,
thirty-two is plenty.
Thirty six, forty,
Lordy, lordy.
When we rode 17 miles together one weekend, this rhyme came in handy; the boys correctly figured out I owed them each $4.25.

More directly, there are the navigation lessons.  That is, we ride together through the city to get to drum lessons and the library.  We explore back streets and discover interesting alleys, places that I'd avoid with my car but that are perfect for a trio of energetic and slightly rambunctious cyclists.  We zoom together through side-streets previously unknown on the way to the dentist.  We're getting to know our city in ways that are up-close-and-personal, as well as behind-the-scenes.

There are the social bike lessons, too.  Staying together was tricky for a while: N-son seemed to always lag behind, and J-son wandered.  After a week or two of riding slowly, looking back over my shoulder and nagging, I wised up.  Instead, I taunted the boys:  "you can't keep up with your little old mother?" and I took off like a bolt of lightning, only to find two bolts of lightning zipping by me.  Since then, we careen through the streets, flying after one another, the boys making me sweat and pant as I chase them down.

They're daredevils; they're fearless.  They bunny-hop over sidewalk curbs, swerve and dash, skid to dramatic stops.  They're very careful around traffic, but utterly contemptuous of immobile obstacles or each other.  I get a workout chasing them, and I get a bonus workout every time I have to yank my heart out of my throat and lower it on a pulley to its proper place between the lungs.  They laugh with abandon and glee, and I, their mother, am learning by their example to abandon fear, to chase after joy with my own two legs and my own two wheels.

And this . . . this of course is the true secret to good parenting.  Because more than money, when we're chasing one another and yelling encouragement and egging one another on . . . more than money, what I'm paying is attention.

And that's what my kids need most.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun to me! Keep up the good work.