Monday, July 28, 2008

Bicycle Safety

Some people drive me crazy. I've got a lot of pet peeves. A lot. I try not to bother people with too many of them. The ones that I share usually relate to safety and consideration.

Today, I'm focusing on bicycle safety. Specifically, parents and children riding their bicycles together in the city of Chicago.

For those of you who don't live here, in Chicago bicycles are to be ridden on the street, not on the sidewalk. The seemingly unwritten exception is with small children. Understandable. Even before I had kids, I could appreciate this social exception.

Here's where it goes wrong – when crossing streets, specifically, streets with traffic signals. Apparently, today's parents have forgotten basic bicycle safety. Though no bike commuter does so, basic bike safety dictates that you walk your bike across the street, not ride.

Today, I saw a young woman, probably a nanny, riding her bicycle and had two children under age ten with her; the elder was a girl on rollerblades, the younger, a boy on a bicycle. They passed me as I was walking JD down Belmont. As they were passing, a 20-something dummy was riding his bike on the sidewalk coming toward us (not only on the sidewalk, but on the wrong side of the street.) The nanny passed me, then the girl on rollerblades, then the little guy passed just as the oncoming cyclist was about to pass me, almost sending him into a parking meter. Then, at the corner of Racine and Belmont, she asked me where the nearest Whole Foods was. I told her it was on Ashland, two blocks North. She thanked me, then, when the light turned green, started riding. The kids were behind her and skated and rode across the street. I wanted to smack her.

First, if you're riding bikes with kids, ride on the sidewalks of side streets! You can avoid traffic lights and pedestrians alike! Second, aside from the oncoming cyclist being in the wrong place, she should have told the kids to stop and waited until the oncomer passed. Third, what is she doing behind the kids? What if one of them fell down? Or worse? Finally, teach them to walk their bicycles when crossing the street. Bad judgment.

Parents: help your kids learn to be good people. You see and curse people when you're out-and-about doing stupid, inconsiderate things. When you're out, especially with your kids, do the smart and safe thing. Maybe together we'll raise people who won't turn out to be jerks.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Parental Education

I'll get back to our road trip in the next day or so. For now, a quick word on parent education.

For the first time, I have picked up a book on dealing with my toddler. What to Expect: The Toddler Years (Eisenberg, A., Murkoff, H.E., Hathaway, S.E. (1994) Workman Publishing, NY.) has given me some positive insight into handling my toddler. One of my favorite things about the book is that it is realistic about different children requiring different parenting, “Every child is different, every family is different, each circumstance is different,” (120).

The book was recommended by my pediatrician's post-appointment handout. After a few situations that I realized could have been handled better, I decided that some outside research might be needed.

JD is my 18-month-old son. Only when he is heading into a dangerous situation I can't physically stop do I think it's appropriate to yell. Going in the street. Going for a sharp knife on the counter that I forgot to put away (again.) Those situations that require his immediate and uncompromising cooperation to ensure his safety.

Lately I've found myself being a bit lazy. Sometimes after dinner, my wife and I will sit and watch a little TV. If JD brings a book to us, we'll read, otherwise he often plays by himself. However, he often will want our attention and will gain it by intentionally doing something he knows is a no-no. He went up to the TV and banged on it. I found myself yelling from my chair, "JD, no!" expecting him to obediently comply without objection. Combining the time of day with the fact that he was doing it trying to play with my volume and tone made made him cry. Not out of remorse, but out of fear.

I am not afraid of JD having some fear of me. He should first and foremost know that I love him unconditionally. However, positive reinforcement should come before negative scolding. I do believe that he should be afraid of disobeying me. Not fear of losing my love and certainly not fear of corporal punishment. He should understand that my word is God's word. A friend of mine and I concluded that a good Dad is a little intimidating.

With that, there were several things I did wrong. First, I did not get up and attend to the situation. “Correction is much more effective when it takes place face to face. So rather than call from the other side of the room . . . walk up to your child, look him or her squarely in the eye, and say your piece. Let your body language, tone of voice, and expression make it clear that you mean business,” (123). Second, there was no alternative given, no redirection. If I had gotten up and met him face to face, I could have said, “JD, don't touch the TV – you could break it. Why don't we go read a book?” or, “Why don't we sit down, watch the White Sox, and drink some milk?" This way, he gets his attention and his Mom and I get a some quiet time to relax. “Follow through is crucial. . . If your actions don't speak at least as loud as your words, your admonitions will lose their impact,” (122). Finally, I made him feel like he was being bad. But for me to yell, "JD, NO! Don't touch the TV!" was absolutely the wrong way to handle it.

As I grow up with my child, I will learn effective and ineffective ways to discipline JD. Some things that work now may not work next week or even tomorrow. The most important things include ensuring that laziness has no part of discipline, instilling fear can lead to feelings of loss of love, and constantly update your skills.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Road Trip! (Part 2)

Here we were in the car. Mom riding shotgun, JD riding pistol. 9pm. The CD player was loaded with the audiobook, Fight Club. I was excited.

The tripometer on the dashboard read 0.0. I pulled onto Ashland and away we went. West on Armitage, south to the Kennedy (I-90/94 East,) to the Skyway (I-90 East toll bridge,) to I-80/90 through Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania where I-90 split off from I-80, to New York to I-890 spur to Schenectady.

I have an I-Pass, a little windshield-mounted transponder that pays tolls automatically. There were at least two tolls per state. My I-Pass did not work at the first toll, the Skyway. I pull up to the gate, expecting it to open. Nothing. I honk my horn several times, as a few cars are pulling up behind me. They started honking. I was “that guy,” the a-hole who was in the wrong lane. Except it wasn't my fault! An employee approached me and asked for $3. Fine. I figure it was a fluke. Then the first toll in Indiana, same thing. Yikes. There was an 800 number on the transmitter. Turns out, the credit card used to establish the account had expired; we use the tollway so infrequently that it took over two years to go through the initial deposit of $40. Great timing. The clerk on the phone updated all of my information and said that it would take about an hour for it to start working again. The next toll was on the other side of Indiana, over an hour later. Did it work? Of course not! Nor in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New York. I had to pay for all of the tolls up front. Fortunately, I had plenty of cash. We did find out on the ride home that stopping for all of the tolls cost us about 30 minutes.

JD fell asleep around 10:30pm and I listened to Fight Club. I'm a big fan of the movie and found the differences to be very interesting. The screenplay was definitely written for Brad Pitt, as the character was slightly different and darker in the book.

Staci had our laptop and several DVDs. The headphones she used were earbuds. Unfortunately, earbuds do not muffle background noise. We had a hard time coming up with reasonable levels for me to listen to my audiobook so that she could hear her movie. Next trip I'm buying her good headphones.

Finally, something that I ate along the way began to disagree with my bowels. Perhaps it was my buscuits and gravy from the diner in rural New York. Or it was the seven bottles of Coke that I drank. In any event, I had to stop a few times to avoid major disater. Sometimes I think that diapers would be a good thing to wear on a road trip to avoid unnecessary stops. No diaper would have contained these bombs. Yikes.

We were happily received at my cousin's house. More on that next time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Road Trip! (Part 1)

Going on a road trip with a toddler can be tolerable if several steps are taken to ensure the best possible outcome.
First, you must have your head examined. I would recommend a psychiatrist as well as a brain surgeon. The former will help evaluate your tolerance for sleep depravation, ability to overcome annoyances, ability to overcome mind-numbing screaming, and your sanity for considering this adventure. The brain surgeon will check to make sure that you do not have a tumor pressing some lobe that is causing you to feel that this is as good an idea as going to the local ice cream parlor.
I cleared both tests.
Next, have a good group. In addition to my wife and my son, we were also going to be with my brother and his girlfriend. We would rent a minivan and share driving responsibilities as well as the financial burden of $4.25 per gallon fuel prices. The plan included leaving at 8pm on Thursday night so that the child would sleep through as much of the trip as possible.
Schenectady, NY was the destination. The purpose: my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniaversary surprise party. According to Google Maps, the trip would be approximately 810 miles.
The only thing that did not go according to plan was my brother and his girlfriend joining us. This created a couple of problems. First, I would have to do all of the driving, as my wife did not pass the psychiatrist's evaluation. (11-14 hour workdays for the last 5 months will get a person teetering on the point of insanity and certainly at the brink of severe irritability.) Second, we would have to bear the $350 total fuel estimate. Finally, there would be nobody to entertain JD if he were to awaken.
The proper preparations for the trip were made. Car inspected and given the proper maintenance and cleaning. Snacks purchased. Plenty of caffeinated beverages. Bags packed. Coolers clean and ice available. Lots of diapers. Cash. Checkbook. Credit cards. I was on my game.