Am I succeeding as a parent and providing opportunities for our children to develop their interest and ability in sport and recreational activities?
I have to put my hand up and admit
Our youngest daughter recently turned five and I wanted to make sure she could ride a two-wheeled bike prior to this milestone. I failed!
I tried everything, including the old incentive of ice creams and lollies, but to no avail. I struggled to get her to enjoy riding her bike.
In the end I blamed it on the type of bike, so I went to Revolution Cycles in Havelock North and purchased a new bike for her fifth birthday. I was told that it was a bike that is very easy to learn on, so with fingers crossed, I presented it to her, as the last of gifts on the day.
She was excited with the bike, but not too enthusiastic about it having just two wheels. Anyway I managed to convince her to give it a go, and within two attempts she was able to ride for a small distance.
It was a big sigh of relief and I no longer felt like a failure. Over the next couple of months we went to the bike park at the Regional Sports Park to hone her skills in preparation for a holiday to Rotorua and the kid-friendly mountain bike park.
Every trip to the sports park ended with a visit to the local dairy for an ice cream as a reward for her great efforts. On her last ride prior to Rotorua, she was able to ride unaided for many laps.
It got me thinking about my own childhood and the fun I used to have with my mates in Flaxmere as we explored the further reaches of the new residential development. It felt like we would bike miles; but I think as we headed west, we probably got nowhere near what is now the Fernhill vineyards.
In those days as a seven year old, I would wave good-bye to my parents on a Friday afternoon and ride to my grandmother’s house in Williams Street, Hastings. I would arrive safely and, at the end of the weekend, would return home.
Fast forward to 2014 and I’m attending a presentation by young entrepreneurs with great ideas that they want to turn into reality.
One of the ideas was a virtual experience that ‘got kids outside’ and enjoying a natural environment. The virtual experience, using a tablet or a smart phone, created characters that ‘lived’ in the environment and we were told that it would increase kids’ experience of parks like Te Mata Peak.
It was a light bulb moment for me – we have moved so far away from pushing our children outside and letting them do their own exploring, creating their own characters in their heads and having some genuine ‘free’ fun.
“What has the world come to?” I could hear myself saying. “Isn’t the natural environment and a child’s own imagination good enough?”
In my view, it is. Our children
should be given every opportunity to explore, create and have the odd fall or minor accident.
We need to teach them to create their own barriers at a young age, so that they know when it’s likely that, if they push it, there could be a little bit of pain and/or further gain.
I often see children being molly coddled by their parents, who sigh or whimper, well before their child does, when something is about to go wrong.
Instead, children need to be given every opportunity to learn their own barriers early. To fall, trip, get hit by a ball – whatever it may be – and to get up, brush themselves off and move on.
It’s our role to provide support, be there for them and to pat them on the back when they win or lose. We also need to try and get outside more often with them to play … just like we did.