Monday, September 24, 2007

Bike helmets, not just a product of runaway lawsuits

Friday was a beautiful day. We've had a lot of beautiful days recently, and Friday was one of them. And it was a that made it doubly beautiful. Hello lamppost, how's it going? I've come to watch your flowers growing. That sort of beautiful.

So we ditched school in the afternoon and decided to take the bikes and go to a park. Sweetling is still...wait...Sweetling *was* still working on mastering the two wheeler thing. The problem being that the sidewalks are a bit too narrow. Nevermind that they are three to four feet wide. The grass edges kept sneaking up on her and making her lose her balance. So a park trip, to a place with a big empty parking lot, was totally in order.

Load up bikes, load up waterbottles, load up kids, load up bike helmets.

A word on my previous attitude about bike helmets. Since the invention of the bicycle in the 1800's, no child has worn a helmet to ride a bike. Helmets were reserved for motorcycles, when they came out, and people who were doing things like putting both wheels of their bike above their heads on a regular basis. Good old 'hop on your bike and ride down the street' never needed a helmet. Even if it was, hop on your bike, ride down the street, and over the bike ramp you and your friends have made in the neighbors driveway out of cinderblocks and a old piece of half-rotted plywood you dragged up from the woods. No one wore helmets. Ever. And a never knew, met, or even heard of anyone who had a serious head injury from lack of bike helmet. But you know, we also made long car trips in the back of station wagons without seatbelts, so what did we know?

Anyway, enter the 1990s. Its now popular to drop your 6wk infant off at daycare for nine hours a day...but by jimminy, you better get him a bike helmet for his tricycle when he's old enough. (And you'll know when that time is, because the daycare workers who are raising him will let you know when he starts mastering petalling the bikes in the large motor room). Otherwise people might think you weren't a very attentive parent.

So bike helmets.

Sweetling, of course, had a helmet when she got her two-wheeler with the training wheels and her scooter....but it wasn't because Mommy was really concerned about this whole helmet thing. It was because she had watched PBS, and so she *knew* that she was *supposed* to have a helmet. And Sweetling doesn't do anything unless she can do it the way its *supposed* to be done. Blame the Jedi for that. She certainly didn't inherit that from *me*.

Now, here we are in the van on our way to the park. (Little Guy has a helmet too...I couldn't very well have Sweetling in a helmet and not Little Guy. Its a paranoid mom thing, you know?) We get to the park, helmets get strapped on, bikes get taken out. "Don't ride past this point" speeches get made. And we're ready. Little Guy takes off. Sweetling gets a pep talk and a promise that I'm not going to suddenly let go of her. (She could tell, months ago, that I might be the sort of parent to try that stunt.)

So I run beside and behind the Sweetling and after a few passes back and forth across the parking lot...she's got it!!!! There was one other family at the park that day, and the mom there was clapping and cheering for the Sweetling too. :)

I continue running along beside the Sweetling, just in case. And we tell Little Guy that Sweetling is not a target. We are not playing bumper cars here. And then Sweetling is doing great, so I chase Little Guy on his bike. (Little Guys favorite bike games are...race me...and 'oh no, big scary monster going to get me!') And after a while of doing both those activities in ninety degrees, full sunshine, on a blacktop, in the afternoon...Mommy was tired. So I went to stand beside the van, drink my waterbottle, and watch and encourage from a distance.

Which is when we get to the point of this story. Turning on a two wheeler is still tricky. So, Sweetling, heading towards a line of bushes at the end of the parking lot made a couple attempts at turning her bike, but they made her wobbly, so she kept going straight. Mommy, way too far away to get there even at a dead run, is yelling "Stop! Stop! Put your feet down!" Sweetling says she was screaming too loud to hear. Sweetling panics, takes her feet off the petals, and her hands off the handlebars, and hits the bushes at full tilt. I saw her little hands make one frantic grab to hang on to the bushes as the bike went in, and she went off the back of the bike.

From across the parking lot, I heard the crack as her helmet hit the black asphalt. By the time I got to her, she was struggling to her feet, and spitting out the leaves that her open, screaming mouth had nearly injested. Her bike was wedged several feet into the bushes. After reassuring myself and the Sweetling that she was all right, I had to crawl into the bushes to grab the seat of her bike and drag it backwards to get it out.

The helmet had a huge gouge out of the styrofoam where it had taken the impact in place of her skull.

So, safety helmets. Not just a result of yuppy lifestyles.

Sweetling, by the way, did a great job of getting back on her bike and riding it again. Little Guy, who thought that this was all very funny, rode his bike into the bushes on purpose twice before Mommy could convince him not to do that.

All in all, a great Friday outing.

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