Risky Business

I am all for children taking risks. I think it is essential that all children grow up being encouraged to take risks. It is only through taking risks that they can learn how to manage risks.

We all want to keep our children safe all the time. No parent wants to see their child hurt. But they have to learn to keep themselves safe.

We can’t always be there to catch them, they need to learn how to fall.

I don’t mean that we should encourage them to jump down the stairs or run in front of buses. In fact it is a daily battle to prevent my daughter from engaging in just such acts of assured self destruction.

I mean measured risks.

If the consequence of taking a risk and failing at something is a bruise or a scrape then I will let my children take that risk. Bruises and scrapes are not that big a deal. If the consequence could be broken bones or being flattened by a bus then I will not let them take that risk.

I see it as my job as a parent to keep my children safe and I take that responsibility very seriously.

But it is not my job to prevent them from ever falling over.

I am happy for my children to take risks and discover their own limits.

Two weeks ago, my nearly-five year old son decided it was time he learnt to pedal his bike. He got a balance bike for his second birthday. When he got too big for it, we got him a pedal bike. But he insisted on riding it as a balance bike with the pedals off. Until now.

In typical my son style, he decided out of the blue that he was ready to pedal, and that was that. Off he went. He is brilliant on the bike. He handles it really well and is absolutely flying.

He is clearly a child after his mother’s heart – he loves to cycle.

He is used to bikes for transport. We have been using the cargo bike to get most places for over two years.

So naturally, he wants to ride his bike everywhere we go. After all, that’s what I do.

So far, this has worked fine with his bike attached to the cargo bike. He goes in the cargo bike on the roads and on his own bike on the cycle paths. Another huge benefit from owning a cargo bike. We get to race along the paths and ride together chatting.

But, he doesn’t really want to keep getting on and off. He just wants to ride his bike.

He wants to ride on the roads, just like Mummy and Daddy.

I’m not talking main roads. I mean the ‘quiet’ roads that are part of the cycle routes.

I am happy for my children to take risks and discover their own limits.

But this doesn’t feel like my child taking a risk. It feels like other people (drivers) taking risks with my child.

And the potential consequences are huge.

I am not happy with that. Not at all.

So what now?

Do I:

A) Let him start riding on the roads with lots of instruction and guidance.

or

B) Explain to him that the roads are unsafe so no, he cannot ride on them.

The trouble is, neither of these options sit well with me.

Here are my issues:

Option A:

I know how some drivers choose to drive. On a daily basis, cars cut me up, pass with centimeters to spare, pass on blind corners, drive straight at me, and share their views on my chosen mode of transport with some colourful language.

I know really that this is the minority of drivers. Most are absolutely fine. But that minority of drivers are taking a risk with my life. The potential consequences of that risk are very very serious.

I cannot let them take that risk with my son.

Option B:

There are so many problems with this option.

I want my children to love cycling like I do. I want them to love cycling like Danny does at the moment. If cycling becomes a frustrating experience of being told no all the time I am going to take this away from them.

I want my children to grow up believing that people are inherently good. We all make mistakes but people are good at heart. I try to believe this despite the close passes and colourful language. I cannot expect my children to believe this if I tell them that some drivers make the roads unsafe for cyclists. They make the roads unsafe just so they can get where they are going 2 minutes faster.

And then, how do I answer questions like:

“But you and Daddy ride on the roads, does that mean you are not safe?”

“But you ride the cargo bike on the roads with us on it, does that mean we are all not safe?”

“When will I be old enough to ride on the roads?”

And here’s the thing. When will he be old enough? My mum regularly tells me how much she hates the thought of my cycling on the roads. I’m in my 40s.

So option A and option B are both unsatisfactory.

I need an option C.

Anybody got an option C?

“That woman with the bike”

Pretty soon after I started using the cargo bike on a daily basis, I realised that I was no longer just ‘a cyclist’ to the people I came across. I became “that woman with the bike”.

I know this because I have a friend who is lovely and who looks the part of a playground mum. She is ‘in with the playground mum chat’. What I do not know is the tone that people use when they say “that woman on the bike”. I like to think that it’s not snarled through gritted teeth but sometimes I suspect otherwise.

I also find it incredible how many other cyclists tell me where else in the city they have seen me on my distinctive bike.

And I find it incredible how many people say “oh, you’re the woman with the bike” when I am off the bike but talk about it.

It is a strange feeling not being anonymous.

It makes me realise how often we are anonymous in daily life. We don’t really recognise people that we don’t know, even when we see them every day walking or driving or cycling around our streets.

Trust me, you do get recognised when you ride the only bakfiets in the village.

It also makes me realise that there is more than one way to ride a bike.

I consider myself a safe cyclist.

I consider myself an assertive cyclist.

Others perhaps consider me an aggressive cyclist.

Others definitely consider me an annoying cyclist.

Here’s the thing. I take the issue of safe passing distance very seriously.

There are plenty of articles available online detailing close pass statistics. A quick Google of ‘close pass cyclist’ will provide plenty of links. I’m not going to bother repeating them here.

I am going to speak from daily experience.

Close passes are scary.

Close passes can be terrifying.

Close passes are completely unnecessary.

In my more generous moments, I think people pass me so close I could reach out and touch their car / van / taxi / bus because they just do not realise how vulnerable cyclists are. They do not realise how close they are. They do not see the potholes that might mean I need to move further from the curb.

In my less generous moments, I think people people pass that close because they really do think that their journey is more important than my life and my childrens’ lives.

West Midlands Police recently ran a campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of close passes. Other police forces also showed interest in this and Cycling UK are running a kickstarter campaign to provide close pass cycle mats  to every police force in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I think this is a fantastic initiative.

I think it can make cycling safer.

Even more important, I think it can make cycling more attractive to people who currently don’t cycle.

I think it could encourage more families to take to their bikes.

I hope it could encourage more families to take to their bikes on the school run.

Back to why I know I am an annoying cyclist.

I do not cycle right next to the curb. I cycle around half a metre from the curb. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on the state of the road. I have always done this. Long before I realised that this is exactly what the police would advise. I have always seen this as providing me with somewhere to go if a driver does pass me too close for comfort.

Sometimes, this means that a vehicle cannot get past me as soon as they might like to.

But it does mean we are safe.

Anyone who has had any experience of the school run will know the kind of parking which goes on. This narrows some of the roads I have to use to one lane. If I squeeze into the kerb and drivers pass me as close as they can, then there is still room for them to pass me immediately.

But that means we are not safe.

So, I won’t allow it.

If a road is narrow and there is not room for a car to pass me with at least a metre to spare, I will cycle much more than 0.5m from the kerb, to make drivers wait until the road is wider before they pass me.

And that means that we are safe.

There are a couple of roads where I do this every day.

I can appreciate that this must be frustrating for some drivers.

I am not trying to make any kind of point. I am not trying to upset anyone. I am just keeping us safe.

The roads where I do this every day are not very long.

The delay to drivers cannot be more than two minutes.

The minority of drivers who react to this by shouting abuse are not going to make any difference to me.

I will still cycle.

I will still cycle defensively.

I will still wonder, does two minutes really make that much difference to a person’s day?

Winning the Weight Loss Challenge

I’ve posted a couple of times this year about weight loss and me. About losing weight after pregnancy and about the culinary challenges I now find myself facing.

Time for an update and the update is positive.

Since New Year, I have lost just over a stone. Even better, I find myself fitting into clothes a size smaller. This is the first time I have been a size 12 in many, many years.

Yay for me. I feel great and I feel positive about maintaining my new weight.

The remarkable thing is that I’ve not really found it that tough to lose the weight this time. I’ve not been hungry and I’ve not gone without my red wine and chocolate at the weekend.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing.

I discovered the myfitnesspal app when I first started losing the ‘baby weight’. I think it’s a fantastic tool. But, like any tool, how well it works depends on how well you use it. I have used it well and I have used it badly. More about that in a future post.

Here is why I think I might just of got it right this time:

  • Accurately measuring calories out:

I got a new Garmin (I am a bit of a Garmin gadget addict). My lovely husband bought me a Garmin Vivoactive HR for my birthday. I have tried all sorts of heart rate monitors over the years. All of these used chest straps to measure heart rate. All of them have ended up flung across rooms in disgust. I came to the conclusion that I am simply not the right build for chest straps.

My new Garmin is a watch which measures heart rate at the wrist. I have found it to be reliable and accurate. It uses the heart rate measurements to calculate calories burned, so the calorie count is pretty accurate. The Garmin Connect app talks to the myfitnesspal app so the calories I burn are added onto my daily allowance. It also counts steps so I don’t have to tell myfitnesspal how active I am (since this varies every day anyway).

  • Thinking about the quality of everything I eat

I have had my daily calorie ‘allowance’ set at around 1500. This is fairly low, but because I am on the bike pretty much every day for transport or fun, I generally have another 500 calories added to this to make up for calories burned. I have found that this level is perfectly achievable without feeling hungry as long as I think about the quality of everything I eat. For me this has meant lots of fruit and veg, and lots of malt loaf. I look for what I can eat which will make me feel the most full, for the least calories.

Sadly, if I consume 685 calories with a slice of tiffin and a medium latte from Costa (I love tiffin and latte from Costa) that is a huge dent in my allowance and it doesn’t really keep hunger at bay for long. That said, a small skinny latte from Costa comes in at 70 calories and, because milk is largely protein, this is actually not a bad high quality, low calorie snack.

  • Eating enough and eating often

Eating enough and timing when I eat has been a tricky one for me. I now never go out without snacks (for me, as well as the children). I would no more leave the house without bananas and malt loaf bars, than I would leave without a packet of wipes (Once you have had children, it is almost impossible to contemplate not having wipes on hand at all times, even once the children are out of nappies). I have realised that, if I actually let myself feel more than slightly hungry, I overeat.

Mid-morning and evening are the important times for me. We have breakfast pretty early, then the nursery and playgroup run is on the cargo bike. By the time I have done that, I always eat something. I often don’t feel hungry, but if I don’t eat something around 100 calories, I will find myself eating closer to 500 calories later.

I now try to keep meals under 500 calories, but I kind of count snacks as a meal – especially evening snacks. I eat with my children at around 5pm and I go to bed around 10pm. That leaves a huge stretch of time without eating if I don’t have enough calories to eat in the evening. So, I make sure I have enough calories to eat something in the evening. This is usually the calories I have burned through cycling, especially if I have been on the bike in the evening.

Some days, I find it hard to get my head around eating enough in the evening. It is hard to see that you have 800 calories left because it has been an active day and not to think that that is an achievement, especially if I’m not actually feeling all that hungry. I have done this in the past and have found that the next day, or even the day after, I go on a bit of an eating rampage. Bring on the Costa tiffin and unlimited home baking! So now, if I have 800 calories left at the end of the day, I use those calories before I go to bed.

  • Minor changes in family meals

I recently watched the ‘Hairy Dieters’ programmes and thought they had lots of good ideas for cutting calories without sacrificing enjoyment. I bought the cook book too and have found it really helpful. It has some good, simple, tasty recipes which have been acceptable to everyone in my family (Husband: larger portions, 4 year old: happy to eat most things, 2 year old: put bread with it).

I have taken the hairy biker idea of little swaps and used that with other meals too. So, if I make pasta and pasta sauce, for me I swap the pasta for baked sweet potato (5 minutes in the microwave so not a separate meal to my mind) – just as filling, half the calories. My family loves chilli and quesadillas – I make the chilli with quorn mince, use the food processor to add in loads of peppers in disguise, and I have baked potato instead of quesadillas. Lunches have been the same minor changes – one slice of toast with extra baked beans or scrambled egg is more filling for less calories.

  • Chilling out about going over my daily ‘allowance’

I no longer panic when I go over my daily allowance. I regularly do go over it and I am still losing weight. My reasoning it that I have my allowance set fairly low and that leaves a nice ‘margin of error’. According to the NHS, a woman should consume around 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight. So, even if I go over by 500 calories every day for a week, it’s really no disaster. I probably won’t lose any weight that week, but I probably won’t gain any either, and that is fine.

I am not en elite athlete and I never will be. It is not vital that I keep my weight low, it never will be. I just want it a little bit lower. I always go over my allowance on Fridays and Saturdays. Wine and chocolate. It is worth appreciating just how easy it is to consume a couple of thousand calories through wine and chocolate. This allows me to be moderate in my indulgences and to be aware of them, without giving them up entirely. If I have kept more or less within the limits I have set throughout the week, although I go over at the weekends, my average daily calorie consumption for the week is still under 2000 calories so I should still lose weight.

So, these little revelations have meant that for now I have found a ‘diet’ that I can keep to and not feel deprived. I also feel that I am not demonstrating an obsession with dieting to my children. I am perhaps demonstrating an obsession with healthy eating and moderation to my children. To me that is ok. I want to bring my children up to be active and to eat healthily, not to diet. I find that if I stay active and eat healthily (not Costa tiffin, or at least not too often), then I don’t need to diet.

 

My ill-informed views on Cycling clubs

My opinions on road cycling clubs have been formed by those clubs I have been involved with. That is really not very many clubs at all. I can count them all on the fingers of one hand. I wrote an earlier post about my first experience with a cycling club.

In addition to my very limited first hand experience, I have also chatted to other women about cycle clubs.

So, it is more than likely that my views on cycle clubs are entirely unfounded and unfair. Nevertheless, my experiences with these clubs had a huge impact on me and on my cycling. I thought I’d share my views. Feel free to disagree with me.

I think bike clubs can be quite intimidating, especially for women.

I think women often lack the confidence to try riding in a club. The fear of not being fast enough or skilled enough stops women from giving it a go.

This is not helped when existing club riders don’t always remember to identify and help new riders. If you are new to group riding then the gestures used to communicate in groups can be something of a mystery.

It is also not helped when club riders forget to consider how they come across to others on the road. If a bunch of riders wearing club kit speed past me without as much as a wave, I am unlikely to consider joining them.

I wonder too if women look for something different in a club to men.

Personally, what I want out of a club is that feeling of being a part of something. I’m not too bothered about training hard when I ride with a club. I can do that by myself. I really just want to ride my bike and have a good natter.

I am now a member of a cycling club which I absolutely love. Hervelo Cycling is a womens club. It is split between the ‘skinnies’ (road cyclists) and ‘mudhonies’ (mountain bikers). There are women in the club who race, there are women in the club who ride sportives and audaxes, there are women in the club competing in triathlons.

I do not believe that there is a single woman in the club who would not give a friendly wave to another cyclist.

I do not believe that there has ever been a rider with Hervelo dropped and left behind on a club ride.

I don’t know if this is down to being a womens club or just down to being a small club.

I do know that it is the club I will remain loyal to and whose kit I am proud to wear.

I think great things have happened in womens cycling in the past few years. But there is still a long way to go. We need to encourage more women to get out on a bike at all levels.

I would like to see more women racing, more women using bikes on the school run, more women riding together.

More women gaining all the benefits that cycling can bring. Health, sustainable transport, time outdoors, time in nature, time with like minded others, time with their children, time without their children, time to think, time to not think.

Cycle clubs have a huge roll to play in encouraging more women to get out and ride their bikes.

If you’re not already a member of a club, give it a go. Take a leap of faith and go out with your local club. And if it’s not what you hoped or what you’re looking for, start your own. Make it what you want. That’s what Hervelo came from and in my opinion, Hervelo is a fantastic club.

Weighty problems

New Year seems like an appropriate time to talk about weight loss.

Weight can be a touchy subject so I had maybe better add a disclaimer. I am writing about my personal experiences with weight gain and loss. I am writing about it because I think about it. I include numbers because I think about the numbers. I think people should decide their own healthy and happy weight.

Disclaimer over.

I’ve never been small. I’ve been a size 14 most of my adult life and I’ve always been fairly content with my size. I’ve always been pretty heavy for my 5ft 5 too, around 11st 7lb. I’ve often thought I could do with losing a few pounds, but I’ve never really dieted as such.

Then I had children.

My first pregnancy I regarded as a license to drink chocolate milk. It was brilliant. Whatever I fancied I could label a craving. Everybody knows pregnancy cravings must be respected. If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever really craved anything when I was pregnant. I just allowed myself to be greedy.

Unsurprisingly, post pregnancy, I found myself shopping for size 16 clothes and weighing in at 14st.

I was no longer content with my size.

The trouble was that there was no way to lose the weight just by exercise. I had a new baby and was trying to breast feed. I couldn’t find the time to exercise.

So exercise took on a new meaning. I walked. I walked and I walked. I walked in the sunshine, I walked in the rain and I walked in the snow. The great thing about small babies is that they love to sleep and they love to look at stuff. Baby Danny loved his buggy.

I did a bit of running too and started going to the gym a couple of times a week.

I also discovered the My Fitness Pal app. I counted calories and I tracked steps and gradually I lost weight. Danny turned one and I was down two stone.

Hurrah for me.

Then came pregnancy number two. I lost the baby very early and to be honest, my weight was the least of my concerns.

Pregnancy number three had the very happy outcome of baby Ellen. This time I was more careful. I did not drink my own weight in chocolate milk. I accepted that I would gain weight, but I wouldn’t go wild this time.

Ellen was born and I was 14st 8lb.

I felt like I had been cheated out of 9 months of chocolate milk.

Back to my fitness pal. Back to the pedometer.

It was harder to walk everywhere this time as I had a 2 year old as well as a newborn. 2 year olds don’t like to walk for miles, or to sit in buggies for any length of time.

I got into running, I entered a marathon. I did too much too soon and never got to the start line of the marathon.

Ellen turned one and I was still 13 stone.

When I got the cargo bike and started using it five days a week getting Danny to nursery, I finally started to lose the weight. Six months of using the bike for transport and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

Hurrah for me.

But here’s the thing. My weight no longer just hovers around 11st 7lb. Instead, it likes to creep its way up to 12 stone. Maybe this is due to having children. Maybe it’s due to reaching my 40s. Maybe it doesn’t matter why.

I don’t want to be skinny but there are some weight related things I do want:

  • I want to go back to being content with my body.
  • I want to set an example to my children of healthy eating and healthy weight.
  • I want to race time trials this year and be as fast as I was before I had children.
  • I want to cook one evening meal which everyone eats.
  • I want to be able to drink wine and eat cake occasionally.

So my challenge for the start of 2017 is to find a way to balance all these wants.

Right now, I’m going to give this some serious thought. While enjoying a slice of Christmas cake.

 

Cargo Kids

When we had one child, we got a bike seat. Brilliant inventions. We got to ride as a family at the weekends. My husband took Danny to nursery on the bike. Brilliant.

Danny’s first bike ride. Clearly not in Edinburgh.

But our family wasn’t complete. We always planned to have two children.

I’m not sure anyone with one child really knows what they are letting themselves in for when they have a second. If they did then I think there would be far more only children in the world.

We had Ellen when Danny was two years old. Now, instead of managing one small, demanding and often highly unreasonable person, we had two small, demanding and often highly unreasonable people.

This had an obviously huge impact on all areas of our lives. Including cycling.

Once Ellen was old enough, we could get a second bike seat and go out all together again. However, one adult and two children seemed to me an impossible ratio for a bike. There are bike trailers but I didn’t feel comfortable with these. To me they seem very low to the ground (the traffic) and I wouldn’t be able to see what the children were up to in there without looking around.

Fortunately for me, my husband is more of a bike geek than me. He had heard of cargo bikes.

Spectacularly fortunately for me, he had a friend who was thinking of selling his cargo bike as his children were now wanting to ride their own bikes instead of travelling in his.

We became the proud owners of a bakfiets cargo bike.

If, like me two years ago, you have never heard of a cargo bike. This is a cargo bike.

It is basically a town bike with a wooden box between the handlebars and the front wheel.

In my opinion, cargo bikes are incredible things. Even better than bike seats.

Great things about cargo bikes:

  • The children are at the front and can see all around them. I can chat to them about what they see and what they have been doing.
  • I can see and sort out arguments between the two of them (I once had to sort out an argument about whose turn it was to throw the imaginary ball to the imaginary dog).
  • I get to ride a bike and look after my children at the same time.
  • Home to school takes 15 minutes, regardless of traffic and the availability of parking spaces.
  • We save around 40 miles of driving a week, just on school and playgroup transport.
  • We decided we now only needed one car instead of two – a huge financial saving.
  • It’s a great form of sustainable transport.
  • There’s room for the children and all the stuff that seems to need to be transported with them.
  • You can fit all sorts of things in a cargo bike – two children or a week’s grocery. The man who sold us the cargo bike cycled to our house with his road bike in the box so he could get home again. There are lots of photos of Christmas trees on cargo bikes at this time of year.

It even has a rain cover. Essential in Scotland.

With thanks to our local library who allowed me to bring the bike in when Ellen was sleeping.

I should probably add that we are very fortunate to have a good cycle path network in Edinburgh. I do use the roads, but minimally.

For all that I am a big fan on cargo bikes, they also have down sides.

Not so great things about cargo bikes:

  • They are slow – I average 8 mph on a good day.
  • They are really expensive (although cheaper than buying and running a car).
  • They are very distinctive – I quickly became “that woman with the bike”.
  • They take a lot of space to store.
  • They have the turning circle of a cruise liner.
  • You can’t put them in the car and take them on holiday.
  • Hills – anyone who has ridden a cargo bike up a hill will know what I mean.
  • As the children get bigger, the cycling gets harder.

Lots of cargo bikes do now have electric assist. As my children are getting bigger, I often wish I had this. That said there is a part of me which feels righteously ‘hardcore’ as I struggle up a slight incline at slightly lower than walking pace.

One of the best things for me about cargo bikes is that they really do seem to be catching on in the UK. When we first got ours, it was ‘the only cargo bike in the village’. People would stop me to say they had seen me somewhere else they had been There are now at least three in the local area.

But there is one thing even better than this about having a cargo bike.

Not once, but several times, I have had high school children speak to me or shout comments at me. I kind of expected teenage scorn, but no.

“Cool bike”

“Where can I get one”

“That’s such a smart bike”

“Wow, look at that”

I am in my early 40’s and, thanks to my cargo bike……I am cool!

Well, sort of.

 

 

 

 

Manners Maketh Mummy

I was brought up to have manners and to treat others with respect. Please and thank you were drummed into me from an early age.

I like to think that I cycle courteously. I like to think that I respect other users of the roads and paths as I would like them to respect me.

But it’s just not that simple.

See, when others give way to me, I thank them. When I give way to someone, I expect thanks. It’s basic manners.

I appreciate that the cargo bike is fairly big (albeit smaller than even the smallest car) and very slow. I don’t like it when cars squeeze past me so I pull in to let them pass if they are going to be stuck for any distance. When I do so, I expect thanks. It’s basic manners.

I appreciate that cycle paths are shared spaces and every other user has a right to be on them. When people allow me space to pass, I thank them. I wait when other people need time to move their children or dogs or whatever to one side to allow space for me to pass. When I do so, I expect thanks. It’s basic manners.

I’m sure you get the idea.

It depresses me that in the majority of these situations, I do not get any thanks. I don’t want a medal, just a simple wave or smile is fine.

What depresses me more is that I am gradually responding to this lack of courtesy by becoming discourteous. I don’t bother to let cars pass before a narrow stretch. I don’t thank others for giving way when it’s my right of way.

I am becoming just like the people who annoy me.

I am becoming the kind of person I do not want my children to be.

I am teaching my children to be rude and inconsiderate because I am being rude and inconsiderate.

Oh no, yet more mummy guilt.

If my 4 year old told me that he was rude to someone at nursery because they were rude to him, what would I say to him?

I would tell him that I understood why he reacted like that.

I would tell him that he must try to be the better person.

I would tell him that he has to create the kind of world he wants to live in. If he wants to live in a world where people are polite and kind and thoughtful then he has to be polite and kind and thoughtful. Even when others around him are anything but. Even when he feels angry about that.

Sometimes, I don’t realise just how much I am asking of my children when I give them advice.

Sometimes, I forget to practice what I preach.

 

 

Lycra in the Playground

When my son started at the school nursery, I became ‘a playground mum’. Playground mums are those mums who are lucky enough to be able to drop off and collect their lovely offspring from school or nursery each day. When I stopped work and became a ‘stay at home mum’, I gave this aspect of my new role no thought whatsoever, absolutely none. I did, however, give a great deal of thought to how I was going to get to school with my 2 children in tow. We live about a mile and a half from the school. We have a car but this seems a ridiculous distance to drive and also, I just don’t seem to have the appropriate attitude for driving and parking around a school at peak times. I can’t seem to help myself.  I just can’t shake my deeply held belief that other people also have a right to life, and to parking in their own driveways, and being able to travel safely along a public road. Also, try as I might, I can’t seem to stop believing that people go to the trouble of painting double yellow lines and zig zag lines for a reason other than to provide a colourful place to park.

Back to my school run quandary. So, just the thought of driving to the school filled me with fear. Anyone who has ever attempted walking a mile and a half with a 3 year old and a 1 year old on a regular basis will know why this was an unthinkable option (think lateness and arguing day in, day out). Enter….the cargo bike…..

2014-11-20

Oh, how I love my cargo bike! More on this in another post but, suffice to say, I get to ride a bike (albeit very very slowly), every single day, whilst looking after my children. I know exactly how long the journey will take, I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space, the children actually love it, and the only downside seems to be the fair number of drivers around the school who do not share my deeply held belief about right to life, etc, etc.

So, mode of transport sorted. Now, what to wear. When Danny first started nursery, he had an afternoon place and Ellen still needed a nap after lunch. She would happily nap on the bike, and what a mileage winner this was. After I dropped Danny off, I had an hour long route on cycle paths (ok, so an hour was only about 8 miles, who cares, I was cycling!) which would be about as long a nap as Ellen needed. That gave me a little while to play back at home before hopping back on the bike to collect Danny from nursery. I had not been able to cycle this much since Danny was born and it was brilliant. It reminded me how much cycling was a part of my identity and something I needed to do to feel like me. It also reminded me why cycle clothing involves padding and lycra after a few weeks of an hour and a half a day cycling, wearing jeans. Oh my goodness, my poor arse! So, cycle clothing it was then. Cycle clothing, for the school run. It was then that I started to notice the playground mums.

I do not know how they do it. Every day the playground is filled with mums, dropping off their children, and looking amazing. Their hair is straightened, their makeup is perfect, they are stylishly dressed. Not just one or 2 of the mums, it seems like almost all of them. Nobody warned me that this was part of having children. That I would suddenly feel like I really should make more of an effort about my appearance. And not a single one of those playground mums was wearing well used and very very comfortable lycra. I obviously cannot say for certain, but I am pretty sure that I am in a very small minority in having a padded insert in my trousers on the school run. Nobody warned me that the playground is as intimidating for the mums as it is for the children. And I felt like the weird one in the class who is only just realising that the way they are dressed is wholly inappropriate for the situation. My arse felt so much better though. And I was on a bike.  So I got over it (mostly…I still feel a bit like the weird kid in the class).