The first few times I went mountain biking I came home with a bruised up backside and an unrelenting question of, “Why do people do this to themselves?” In an effort to keep me more comfortable, my husband installed a new seat on my bike. As in, the most deluxe, comfy, gel-padded seat he could find on short notice. My attitude immediately improved, because my comfort zone had been expanded.
I began to ride more this year. After a clinic for women, and a commitment to teaching others, I became connected with a wonderful group of women riders who meet weekly. While I still needed my comfort zone, I was spending more time in what I call the “growth zone,” and occasionally finding myself in the adrenaline, cortisol coated “danger zone.” As skills and confidence grew, I ran into a problem. Now able to ride more trails and explore more range of motion on the bike, I kept running into an object every time I tried to shift my mass toward the back of the bike. Yup, you guessed it…the seat.
I was afraid to let go of something that had given me a way to feel more at ease as I gained experience. Would the new seat be too hard and beat me up? Would I be free to move more and become better? Ultimately it has worked out really well, and encouraged me to try even more new moves.
Comfort zones are so important. They allow for that safe haven we all need to retreat to to recharge, especially as we are learning and integrating new things. Danger zones are equally valuable, making us aware of the edges and pushing us back toward self-care and preservation. While these zones support change, they do little to facilitate it. For new habits, skills, thought patterns, and connections to take hold we need the growth zone.
This is why Upstate FORT (Family Oriented Recreation & Therapy) is a community organization instead of simply a private mental health counseling practice. By providing recreation experiences and the alternative of adventure therapy services in addition to traditional office sessions, we aim to create more connection, empowerment, and lasting positive change.
Have you ever thrown pasta against the wall? If it sticks the pasta is done, and if it falls you keep cooking? Keep that metaphor in mind the next time your kiddo comes to you with a problem and tries to sling that noodle at you to see if it will stick.
The word responsible gets tossed around a lot in parenting, teaching, and coaching jargon. The meaning here is, “Able to respond,” or response-able. In my experience, kids’ attempts to get someone else to respond (so that they don’t have to) fall into four main categories: the helpless attempt; the polite request; the argument; and the button push. (Ahem…this might be helpful with adults, too.)
The Helpless Attempt
Bless this kid’s heart. They just can’t…tie their shoes, get their own breakfast, get dressed in less than 15 minutes. It’s just soooo hard or soooo slow! If the schedule is going to work, you simply have to move things along, and if there is pasta in your hair, then so be it.
The Polite Request
This little angel looks up at you with that sweet face and says “please” and “thank you” every time! You don’t want to discourage such lovely manners. Of course you will help pick up the toys, take out the trash, or come up with a solution. You rather like the smell of olive oil, wheat, and egg.
This kid could also be called the debater or the negotiator. There is always something more important than the task at hand. They really would feed the dog if they didn’t need to get started on homework, or if it weren’t tragically unfair that they have already fed the dog twice this week! Homework is important, and you can see the argument will take longer than the task, so…
The Button Push
This crafty booger, this master of distraction, has taken it to the next level. They have figured out the most useful of childhood tactics: the bait and switch. They know just the right thing to say to create an emotional response. They manage to make you angry and poof, just like that, the problem is not the wet towels on the bathroom floor. Instead the problem is you. And as your anger rears out of you like the lava monster in Moana, you see tears well up in little Button Pusher’s eyes and question whether you are the worst parent in the world. Meanwhile, the towels on the bathroom floor are completely forgotten…and you are wearing pasta.
It is natural to look for the easier path, to defer, to delay. It is also the intuitive instinct of a well bonded parent to help, to teach, to respond. So, why is this really important? Because the little things become the big things. Able to respond to self-care, hygiene, chores, and animal care become able to be disciplined, self-reliant, healthy, care for employees, work, property, and family of their own.
We generally like to focus on getting more kids on bikes, because there are just SO many great reasons to ride in addition to a wealth of benefits. But, as parents of an only child who happens to be a girl, we are also keenly aware of the gender issues we see at bike gatherings.
Challenge #1 – Where are the girls?
We recently drove two hours to a major metropolitan area for a kids bike race. Our kid was one of four girls in the 9-10 year olds race group. FOUR! By contrast, there were at least a dozen boys. I would love to say this was the exception, but it wasn’t. We were actually excited there were as many as four. More girls mean our daughter and other girls who ride will see themselves in the sport when they roll up to the start line. It also means they will be pushed to challenge themselves as riders and competitors if getting on the podium is a goal for them, versus an entitlement because they were one of three or fewer girls. Likewise, girls and women are more socially motivated to engage in new experiences and exercise.
Challenge #2 – Why is everything made for boys?
The sport is still catching on to the fact that female riders are a real market within the sport. But similar to other adventure sports (looking at you, backpacking) you can’t just downsize it and paint it pink. It’s not that it isn’t fun to find equipment and apparel in a wider range of colors, but instead of adapting the men’s style to women it would be awesome to see more companies investing in starting with the anatomical differences first and then moving toward the construction of product. To be fair, bike manufacturers are already catching on to this, as are women’s apparel companies. But, I’m telling you, the company that makes great baggies for tweener girls will get our business.
Challenge #3 – What’s with the limiting stereotypes?
On a ride this past weekend a mother shared, “I’m so glad I had boys so I could share this sport with them.” Say what?! When did girls get so precious? When challenged on her statement the same mother said, “Well, your daughter must not be a girly girl.” Hmmm. Here’s the thing, “girly girl” is a social construct. It is what our culture tells girls to be…while also telling them to value looks over skills, to appease and defer to males, and to limit their exploration of the world around them. Ironically, recognition of assets that come with femininity are downplayed as weak. So girls get this weird, convoluted message to be “girly,” but not to express the empowered feminine.
Girls who shred are more empowered, more assertive, and more confident. They know how to fall down and get back up. They know how to lead and how to sweep. They show up.
Check out this blog by Angie Schmitt for more about the challenges related to losing interest in biking as girls grow up and how they differ from boys: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/03/29/why-do-teenage-girls-lose-interest-in-biking/
I was fortunate enough to start the day with my friend, Libby Imbody of Walhalla Artworks. Libby has been helping to develop the brand for Upstate FORT by taking all of our words and turning them into images. It is an amazing process.
When Drake and I started imagining Upstate FORT we carried over our family’s values of Community, Integrity, Compassion, and Adventure, because we want these aspects to be represented in everything we do. As a company, this translates to positive youth development, emotional and physical development, being whole family oriented, and enjoyment of our local natural resources through play and creativity. As Libby described choices for fonts and colors she talked about motion and heart, balance and clarity.
Driving home from our meeting (at Brews on the Alley in Seneca – yay local!) I thought about the process of developing a brand that reflects your beliefs, values, interests, and intentions. What if every family engaged in this process?
What would your family’s logo look like?
What colors, fonts, shapes, and images would best reflect the things you most treasure about being a family?
How would you integrate this into daily, weekly, annual living?
Libby is coaching me through this process, listening and reflecting our mission and vision. Likewise, I do this work with parents as a parent coach. Listening and reflecting, offering another way of exploring and representing the family brand. Out of this comes the ability to promote values and beliefs, make decisions about what is most important without being easily distracted, and directing energy to where it is needed most.
Recently, we have heard several questions from parents considering signing their kiddos up for the Intro to Mountain Bike sessions. Please consider this “take 2” on sharing information about what is needed to learn the basics:
Will my child’s bike be OK for the class?
The simple answer is – YES.
If you have a functioning bike that fits your child, you are good to go! We do ask that you make sure the brakes are functional and the tires hold air. It is NOT necessary to have a mountain bike, suspension, or even gears for this class.
In addition, at the beginning of the first class we will perform a safety check of each bike and check the helmet fit for each participant.
What should my child wear (besides their helmet)?
Comfortable clothes appropriate for the weather conditions. Closed toed shoes are required. You do NOT need bike specific shorts or jerseys.
Where is Mountain View Park?
Mountain View Park in the Calhoun area of Clemson nestled at end of Mountain View Lane and surrounded on 3 sides by Lake Hartwell. It is a gem of a park with a ⅔ mile trail and a level grassy area perfect for some bike skills drills. There is plenty of parking and a nice shady area with picnic tables. Otherwise, the park is rustic (ie no bathroom facilities or running water.)