So, the onset of spring. What does that mean to you? For myself, spring brings with it many welcome sights: the fresh flowers turning my dumpy front yard into something I can revel in; the clear-looking sky, even on cold days, which beckons me out; garage sale signs and the hope of a great deal on that something I didn't know I needed but now couldn't possibly say "no" to; and let's hear it for iced coffee or sitting outdoors at Belmont Station, sipping a beer. Ah, spring! A delight in every way! Right?
Um, hold on a minute...what did I see just go by my house? Oh, dear, it couldn't possibly be-- but wait, there it is again-- A Trike-On-A-Stick.
This is what I'm not so thrilled about. Apparently, the weather gets nice, and parents lose their minds. Actually, that's not a fair statement. Here it is, more nicely: The blue sky dazzles well-meaning parents into not thinking clearly.
What could I possibly have against parents pushing their children around town on pseudo-tricycles? More than you could ever guess, my friend. And, as I will so carefully explain, it's not a matter of personal asthetics, which I am well known for amongst my friends and family. (Hey, I'm not picky, I'm "particular". There's a big difference.) No, my aversion to the Push Bar Trike has more to do with a child's actual development, and my steadfast common sense. As in other posts, this may not be a popular opinion, but it's an educated one.
Let's start with the target tike. The Kettrike ads suggest their trike for ages 1-5. A question...what child is the same size at age one as they are at age five? The differentiation from being 12 months and 60 months is huge. How can this bike fit correctly? The ad also states that the bike can support 200lbs. Um...200 pounds?! You have got to be kidding. If I have a 200 pound child, I am not pushing them anywhere. They will need to seriously start moving their body. Especially a 200lb five year old. Sheesh!
Height and weight issues aside, what concerns me more is that tricycles are not really appropriate for very young children such as infants and early toddlers. In fact, a rule of thumb with tricycles is that children are able to use a tricycle at about the same time that they are able to develop the muscles for potty training. It has to do with physiological development. Before that point, tots are better served having a scooter to push themselves around on. They can practice steering themselves, developing their leg muscles and their coordination as they navigate the terrain around them. Learning to steer a smaller scooter is much easier for a child than a larger trike that, when oversteered, tends to fall over. This saves on the tears, band-aids, and overall, the frustration of both the parent and child.
The Kettrike also comes with a footrest for children whose feet don't reach the petals. Maybe, just maybe, if your kid's feet don't reach, they are on something entirely too large for them to be on.
But there's something else that bugs me about it, and it's this that offends the good ol' Common Sense: 20 years ago, if you were caught with a trike like this, you would have your ass laughed off the block. I can't put it any more simply. What kind of trike comes with a seatbelt, for heaven's sake? And what would motivate parents to push their kid around on something that's far more taxing on their own bodies than a more conventional kid-transport, say, a stroller? I mean, is anyone really doing their kid a favor by putting them on a trike if the child has to be strapped on for fear of falling off? It makes one wonder why a parent would be that desperate to see their kid on a trike that they can't wait a few years, until the kid can do it themselves?
I remember my tricycle as a kid. It was green and white and I rode the wheels off the thing. And no one pushed me. I did it myself. I flew on that thing, and loved it to the point that I wouldn't give it up and my younger sister got the nicer, shinier new trike. Even after every last streamer was picked out of the handlebars, it was fantastic.
I think there's something to be said for kids learning how to do things themselves, when they are ready. That's one of the really sad things about the Trike-On-A-Stick, the sight of all those kids who are trying really hard to pedal, and can't. They are so frustrated. Their parents push them around, but the kids know they aren't really doing it themselves. In the words of Aretha Franklin, "Who's Zoomin' Who?". A parent's review loves the feature that, when the child is being pushed, they can't pedal. How exactly is this helping the child develop trike skills they can be proud of?
Here's an idea: let your kid scoot around until they're two and a half or three. Then, get them a trike the right size for their little body. And a box of Band-Aids and a tube of Neosporin-- and you're set. Now, take your kiddo outside and let them practice where it's relatively flat. Just a small area at first, then up and down your block. Then around the block. Keep the trips short, so you can carry the trike home if need be without breaking your back. Use your stroller for longer trips, but feel free to take the trike by car to a park or better yet, a school playground on the weekend, where there's lots of room to ride.
May your spring be a time of warmth, outside time, and a sense of dignity.