Words and illustration by Stephen Haynes
What’s the goal of being a parent? To see your kids get the basic tools they need to go off and try to succeed in life? What about your goals as a cyclist? To crush your personal best on Strava while commuting to work? Ask a hundred people these questions and you may well get a hundred different answers. What’s always fascinated and beguiled me is the inherent competition between both parents and cyclists when talking to other parents and cyclists, like there’s some abacus wielding surveyor tallying up all your notable contributions to both pursuits.
I’d grade my performance as a parent at about a C+ or B-; Proficient, with some room for improvement. I love my kids dearly, but the mental and physical energy it takes to parent is beyond explanation, and sometimes pizza and television is the break we all need from one another. I feel the same way about cycling. Yes, I love riding bikes, but I’d prefer to do a 4-mile ride to and from the grocery store than a 40-mile gravel ride any day of the week. Hell, I’d prefer to eat pizza than do either of those if I’m honest.
Of course there are parents and cyclists who are the inverse of me; the yin to my cynical yang and I often succumb to idyll worship when in the presence of such uber-specimens. I can quickly feel like a lesser being when engaging in casual conversations with these folks, as the one-upmanship game goes on unabated. “Oh, your Jimmy is taking swim lessons? That great, my daughter just got her green belt in Krav Maga.” “Oh, you rode 10 miles yesterday? Good for you! I did a century before work this morning.” The underlying statement of course being “I’m better than you.”
Perhaps it’s my insecurity talking but sometimes I feel like I’m failing my kids because they aren’t getting MENSA-like scores on standardized tests, taking orienteering courses, or learning how to field dress a bull moose. Especially when the uber-parents’ children are doing these things and more. Instagram updates showing their prodigal sons and daughters topping out on their first solo-lead climb, Facebook posts proclaiming their little geniuses won the statewide spelling bee, Tweets announcing to the world that their beloved mini-me’s asked for a second helping of kale! It’s all too much, and it’s also a trap.
Being a good parent, in my opinion, means knowing when and where to push your kids. Similarly, being a good cyclist is based on pursuing what interests you about cycling. Both require you to foster the interest and bolster the effort with encouragement and, at times, tough love. The uber-parents and uber-cyclists of the world are a myth perpetuated by ourselves. Love what you do, love your kids and go enjoy both with the time you have. Also, eat more pizza.Tweet Print