Like most kids, my 9 year old is often keen to try something new. But he also loses interest very quickly. If I am lucky enough that he does stay interested, it is usually due to sameness of the activity – whether it be the structure of the same day and time, the routines surrounding it, or the “no surprise” approach.
Last week, after we started riding our bikes in the mornings, I completely expected him to be bored within days. He isn’t. Without even thinking about it, I have managed build consistency around our cycling and that has kept him motivated. We ride in the morning; he picks the route; we always plan to add a bit more distance each time. Consistency.
This week, I have been trying desperately to get him to do something different. “Let’s ride north this time,” I suggested. “Nope, I’m good,” he replied. “I’ve got a route planned.” And he did – the same route as the one before but a little bit longer. Last night, I almost tasted a mommy victory when I got him to ride with me while I headed out with my running club, somewhere different and farther. At first, everything seemed fine but, once he realized it wasn’t just me he’d be riding with, he walked away.
Tonight, I changed my approach. I gave him incentive. “I’m going for a run into the trails and I need you to come with me. I want to take some pictures in Sixteen Mile Creek so I need you to carry my phone. That’s right. I told my kid that he could carry my phone around with him – on his bike. The coolness factor overpowered him. “Wait, can I watch the end of this show? It’s only 13 more minutes.” Sold! I had a cycling photographer.
Knowing that he prefers trails to roads, we started on a gravel path for the first 2K. Sure enough, within those first 2K, he was bored. But as soon as we got into the trail system, the adventure began. We had the challenge of hills, the beauty of green space, and the excitement of being alone to pull us deeper and deeper into the system. When one hill became too difficult to ride, I walked up his bike while he found places to climb and take pictures, pictures that I didn’t really need other than to make his presence feel valued. Four kilometres into the our ride/run, we decided to take a slightly longer route as it would be less hilly and an easier ride home.
It wasn’t long before we realized we were lost, and another adventure began. We worked our way out of the trail system and navigated back to familiar streets. Again, he pulled out my phone to take pictures. This time, he tried his hand at action shots.
When we got home, he asked if he could ride with me again. He has goals: to ride downhill, to ride part of the way up the big hill, and to learn to take some cool pictures. To me, that sounds like time well spent together.