Many of you know that riding bike is our main form of transportation. It didn't used to be, when I spent five years being perpetually pregnant or nursing I didn't have the energy (or the balance) to think of gallivanting around our city of 3 million on two wheels powered by my own determination. But about 6 or 8 months after Christin was born, I got a new bike. It was outfitted with a seat on the back for a child to sit on, and so we began to take bike rides as a family more frequently. At first I rode it only on those occasions, but as time has gone on, I've gotten more and more comfortable with longer trips, and now LOVE to use my bike as transportation.
Bike riding has many benefits: exercise--on the days I know I will have a longer ride I count that as my exercise for the day!, convenience (no need to find a taxi), the freedom to go exactly when you want and go home exactly when you want, and even stop places along the way! Also, many times, because of the ever-increasing traffic congestion in our city, riding a bike is actually faster than taking a taxi, simply because on a bike you can sail through the lights and even thread your way through stopped traffic in a way that a car cannot. If all five of us are going out, John straps Christin on his back with the Ergo, then has Chloe in his bike seat, and I take Clara Anne in my bike seat. There are no drivers to hassle with, no fees to pay, and we usually even have great conversations on the way! We have now perfected the art of conversing through traffic--John has to stop in the middle of a sentence to quickly zip around someone, or slow down for someone else--and without missing a beat the conversation resumes as we find a place near the other again.
So I love all of this about biking. Right now I am also regularly taking Clara Anne to ballet class on my bike, which means that we have some extra time together on the way there and home. We often have interesting conversations on the way. She often carries an umbrella as protection from the sun, and I am usually breathing hard and sweating, but we still manage to converse.
Last night, however, it was raining as our family set off on our bikes to Dairy Queen. (Yes, DQ! That's another story!) So, in addition to the usual traffic and physical challenges of biking I was also biking with one hand, my right, as my left held a large umbrella. Unfortunately the rain was coming down quite hard and with some wind mixed in so I was getting pretty wet anyway, but that didn't stop Clara Anne from verbally processing some of the things she was seeing and thinking about.
Two particular topics that stand out in my mind from last night. . . on the way there we saw some men with their pants rolled up to their knees and their shirts off, out in the rain. Clara Anne was shocked. "Mommy! Those men are not being modest! Oh dear, they have their shirts off!" This led to a discussion of modesty where I explained that men's chests were not as private as women's chests, and that sometimes men took their shirts off in the presence of others, but that Daddy still wouldn't do that unless we were at a swimming pool. Otherwise Daddy would keep his shirt on, even if it was soaked to the skin!
On the way home (also in the heavy rain!), we began to have a conversation about economics. I had mentioned that I was sure the DQ employees were glad to see us since we were good for their business. She wasn't sure what that meant but then as I explained more about how business works, how the businesses have to make money to pay for their costs, so their employees could eat and pay their bills, etc, and all of these concepts seemed to be totally new to her. Clara Anne seemed most concerned that businesses would make money and not give any to poor people. Perhaps she was struggling with the thought that some people have more money than others? These are good thoughts to be thinking about; I think we'll have to have a more in-depth discussion about money sometime soon.
All of this was happening as I held my umbrella with one hand, steered my bike with the other hand, went in and out of traffic and up and down a few hills, and we finally wrapped it up as we entered the gates of our apartment complex. We were all pretty much soaking wet when we got home, but so thankful for clean jammies, a dry house, and a comfortable bed to fall into as we got there.
So, for now, the bikes continue to be a wonderful mode of transportation for our whole family. And as an unexpected bonus: a great place for conversation, too!