Thursday, July 23, 2009


My girls and I took a week away from camp and work and getting the house in shape, and spent it at a house borrowed from a friend of my parents on Cape Cod. It was a short week (M-F), but it was still a lot of fun to be at the beach and away from our normal routine. And I managed to keep most of the work stuff at bay for the week. Most of it.

Apart from spending time at the beach (which Juli is drawn to; Ava not so much because she's a little afraid of waves), we drove up to Provincetown, read, ate greasy food at the house and at seafood places, and rode our bikes. I even bought a new carrier for my Thule bars so I could bring down Juli's mountain bike, my Paramount and the trailer bike for Ava, while also schlepping food, clothes, bedding and beach stuff needed for three people for 5 days in my little Mazda.

The bikes came in handy for getting to the beach, and Juli's little plastic handlebar basket was invaluable for carrying a pair of rolled-up beach towels. Enough so that I'm thinking about picking up a couple of Wald wire baskets to cable-tie to the various racks on our bikes when we need them. We also took a couple of longer rides - one around 5 miles and one just over 14.

The 14-miler was mostly on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which starts in South Dennis, about two miles from the house we borrowed, which was in Dennis Port. And it was on that ride that I was reminded of how important praise is to kids. Well, people in general, when they do something well. But kids get a lot of negative feedback from adults -- particularly kids like Juliana who have strong wills and short attention spans -- and it's important to highlight for them what they're doing well.

At the head of the CCRT,we passed a youngish couple with their new baby about to set out on a ride. The parents were both trim and athletic and had nice bikes. Their baby was riding in a handlebar-mounted seat on Dad's bike, which I thought was both cool and a little scary, having always kept my kids low and in a Burly trailer when taking them out as infants and young toddlers. Anyway, we saw them, they saw us, and off we went, leaving just ahead of them. We kept up about a 16mph pace when we were rolling.

If you do the math, you can see we did about 5 miles each way on the trail. Just a little past the first rotary in Harwich. Probably half a dozen street crossings each way, and a couple quick stops for water breaks. During one of our water stops, the other threesome passed us, and we quickly overtook them shortly thereafter. I didn't hear this directly, but at around our halfway point, Juli told me that as she passed the group (Juli was at the tail of our procession most of the ride) the man remarked to his partner, "That kid can ride!" as she cruised past on her little 20" Performance mountain bike. Which, of course, she can.

My response at the time was to the effect that she is a strong rider, yes, and that it was neat that someone else had noticed. But of course I ride with Juli all the time, and I've spent the past few years coaching her with choosing gears and keeping up a spin -- I take Juli's riding strength as a given. It wasn't until later in the ride that the impact really sank in.

When we got back to the trail head, that litle family had beaten us back, having turned around a bit sooner than we had, and/or not dallied at the rotary on the way back like we did. We bumped into the dad as he walked from Barbara's Bike Shop back to the parking lot of the rail trail. He and I gave each other a "Hey" as we passed, but he made a point of telling Juli she is a really good rider. She was obviously proud, and it stayed with her for the next couple of days.

Juli is a wonderful girl, but in some ways she's a tough kid to parent. Bright, eloquent, strong-willed, artistic and always turning over what she can create. She's still working out how to get along well with others, and she's quirky enough not to fit in with many of the other children, particularly other girls. Her self esteem has suffered from the social challenges at school, from power struggles (strong willed, remember) at home and at school, and from the collapse of my marriage. She's having a tough run right now.

That other rider offered Juli genuine, unsolicited praise. Praise I've also offered, but in this case unencumbered by a parental relationship. I don't know if she will remember all of this in a year or five years, but I can say that in the moment it made her realize she's good at something. For a little girl struggling to find her place, it meant a lot.

And for that simple act -- of kindness, of enthusiasm, and of respect -- he has my gratitude.

All for now,


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