Something I had forgotten years ago made its way to my conscious mind recently: my father used to bike to work. He started doing this after I left home and passed away before I seriously questioned my commute, and it had totally left my mind. But I don’t doubt that he planted a seed that put me in control of my commute.
Every choice we as parents make has a trickle-down effect on our children, and those things they see us do often or daily are more powerful than those things we only do occasionally or rarely. Your commute is a daily occurrence and gives your kids fundamental insights into what you value.
Here are five things I think and hope my children are learning from my commute.
- Think outside the box. Riding bike to work is powerful because so few others are doing it. When you bike to work, you are teaching your children that there is more than one way to do something–even something as mundane as the daily commute. In a world in which the jobs your kids will have haven’t been created yet, the ability to “Think Different” is a powerful key to success.
- Be Frugal. We try to teach our children to understand value, thrift, and priorities but the average American family spends more on transportation than on food. For most of us, that means a car that sits in an expensive garage all night and in an expensive parking spot all day. By not spending a lot of money on a car, I am powerfully teaching my children what I value.
- Be Active. We tell our children to eat right and be active (“go out and play!”), but we gain five to eight pounds each year. Many of us exercise before the kids get up or after they go to bed and they don’t see it. When you ride a bike your kids see you leave and come home under your own power; they know you value exercise and a healthy, active body.
- Be Proactive and Self-Reliant. We want our children to anticipate problems and opportunities and we strive to empower them. When my daughter once asked why I was a little late getting home, I told her that that I had a flat tire. She seemed surprised and asked how I got home; I responded that I had “fixed it.” Watching her face as she processed the lesson that such a thing was fixable was priceless.
- Tread Lightly. Regardless of your views on climate change, the excesses of the 20th century have to be recognized as unsustainable. I don’t consider myself to be a tree-hugger, but I want my children to recognize that we must consume less and think more. By choosing a bicycle over a car, I am demonstrating an awareness of my impact on the planet that I know my children are absorbing.
My father may have mentioned his biking two work to me only once or twice, and his commute was only about two miles; but three of his four children walk, bike, or take transit to work, and his grandkids are learning the same. Such is the power of parental example–use it well.
Question: What is the lesson you hope above all to teach your children?