Fear, or Lack Thereof, and a Bike

Fatherhood is great. The excitement of your kids first steps. The frustration of a baby that won’t sleep at night. The envy of innocence. The fear of your kid getting seriously hurt.

And with my boys, the fear of my kid getting seriously hurt is a constant concern. For better or worse, they inherited my tolerance for dangerous and scary situations. My three year old in particular has never balked at getting into a rowdy bounce house with six-year-olds or trampoline dodge ball with teenagers. He has zero concern running off away from his parents to do his own thing in crowded areas. Heck, going down our sloped driveway on his Strider at full speed into the street at two and half years of age is the standard fare for this kid. He isn’t a dare devil or adrenaline junky, by any means. He is just a normal kid as far as I am concerned!

So, naturally, he began riding his bike directly from the Strider at just over three years old. Thanks to the Strider, he picked up the bike without ever having training wheels within minutes and was on three mile bike rides within days. He is now a pretty decent bike rider, but I still run alongside him because stopping cleanly, and well, focusing in general, are still a challenge and who knows when, or if, that will ever develop!

Did I mention my fear of this kid getting seriously hurt? Ok, so clearly I don’t have him living in a bubble and probably am a major contributing factor to his personality. But my fear is still rational.

Living in Double Diamond, we are blessed with an incredible bike path running straight through our neighborhood. A few weeks ago we set out for a ride and run down the path. Nothing different than our normal routine except after this heavy winter the ponds and creek along the path were pretty full with rather cold water. We would ride along the path and cross the bridges. As mom and big brother were a ways ahead of us, my little one kept focusing up the path looking for them, speeding up when possible in an effort to catch up.

As we approach a hill, he turns into me accidentally. We have a quick chat on focusing and staying straight on the path. Again, focusing on the task at hand is a challenge when he feels he just gets it. Well, and in general. But we continue on. Past fellow neighbors walking the path, up hills, down hills, across bridges.

Then about a mile or so from the house we are about to cross another bridge. Nothing unusual, just another bridge like the half dozen we’ve crossed in the last mile. But as we cross, he jerks right and rides right off the bridge into the pond. Yes, right next to me, right into the pond.

Father of the Year, right?

The pond surface is only a few inches from the bridge too, so not a huge fall. But the water was a couple feet deep and rather cold and definitely over his head. Without thinking I collapse to my stomach on the edge of the bridge, half my upper body into the water and reach him. I grab his jacket, lift him right out and onto the bridge. He was in the water for maybe 1.5 seconds, probably less. Felt like an eternity.

I’m thinking about a million things, but focus on the task at hand. I instantly strip him of his clothes, rip my long sleeve shirt off, and dry him off and try to warm him up. Of course, other folks walking asked if I needed anything being the great residents of Double Diamond that they are, but there was little anyone could offer at this point.

Getting the kid to focus on me and calm down was a challenge in itself. My shirt, being ten times too large for him, became a point of contention for my inconsolable little one. But as we got through that phase faster than normal, I threw him up onto my shoulders, grabbed his wet clothes in one hand and his bike in my other hand and started our quick paced mile journey home.

Now, the kid is freezing. Wet. Upset. I realize the risk of hypothermia is low, but no sense risking it, he is only three and a half, after all. I keep him calm and alert, I’m focused on symptoms. We are hustling a bit but I get him to sing his ABCs over and over. He is still shivering reasonably, which is generally a good sign at this point. My plan is to get home quickly, get him warmed up in the bath, fresh clothes, sit by the fireplace. And then call my wife. She should be home by that point anyways.

I should have stuck to that order of operations. Once I got him in the bath (and after a quick shower to warm up myself and get the pond smell off!), I call my wife. Everything is well under control at this point. His temperature is fine, his bath toys are splashing around like normal. No problem, so a call should be well received, everything is handled and nothing more to worry about. Right? Well, my wife rushes home as fast as she can run with a seven year old anyways and discovers…everything is fine. Fortunately, the only lecture I got was “you need to get him back on the bike immediately so he isn’t afraid” and that was that.

Ok, not so smooth on the whole kid riding into the pond thing while under dad’s control, but the little one was back on his bike within an hour or two and went on a ride to the park the next day. So, no permanent scars. I was sort of hoping for a little hesitation, maybe even some concern of a repeat, but not him. We are back out there, ponds yesterday and who knows what trouble lies ahead tomorrow! Fatherhood is indeed great.

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