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Motorcycle Monday: Hypocrite Dad Tells Daughter No Bike
August 18, 2014
My youngest daughter turns 14 next month. She’s an eighth-grader this year, but she has her eye toward high school – what she’ll study, how she’ll dress, and what kind of motorcycle she’ll have.
Did I get your attention? She certainly got mine when she broached the subject as casually as possible, in a fait accompli fashion: “You know dad, when I get my motorcycle I’m going to ride it to school every day, even in bad weather.”
She has heard me tell about my recent coast to coast trip, where I rode through rain, wind, hail and everything else. Her interest probably started much earlier though, when she was little and I would put her up on the bike and let her honk the horn. Well, the horn-honking chickens have come home to roost.
What does a motorcycle-riding parent do when his baby girl wants her own bike?
My first impulse is to say no. Being the motorcycle “no” guy is much easier than, say, not allowing make-up, or enforcing an early bedtime. I would face no serious opposition at home or at school, and although my daughter would be upset, in time she would understand.
I have both anecdotal and scientific evidence in my corner. I’ll start with anecdotal. In 1974 a kid I knew was killed in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t really like this kid, but I think of him now and then, and the life he didn’t have. I typed his name into Find-a-Grave. He’s there. A good friend died in 1976. He wasn’t riding crazy, just hit a pothole, went over the handlebars and cracked his head. That was enough.
Yes, I know. Millions of people ride motorcycles every day and don’t get killed. But what if your kid dies? You, whose life duty it is to protect them, could have prevented it (or lessened the chance of it happening) with one little word. I can’t imagine how those kids’ parents feel even now, forty years later. And I don’t want to find out.
Scientific evidence does not favor young riders either. The average person’s decision-making abilities remain at Three Stooges level into the early twenties. Think of your own decisions at that age. I could have left it all to a random decision generator and probably come out better. Your kid may be ready. I actually feel that my daughter’s decisions and judgment are better than mine were. But I’m not convinced the teen years are the time to pilot a vehicle whose fun quotient doubles with every 10mph increase in speed. Cars are bad enough.
This contradicts my earlier assertion that people young and old should experience dangerous situations so they have practice getting themselves out of jams. Some studies show that today’s wimpy plastic playgrounds don’t challenge children like they should. So yes, people should experience danger and challenge. But given teenagers’ impulsivity, they should practice where the stakes are lower – someplace where death and paralysis are less possible than when you’re riding a motorcycle.
I’ve thought about it. I’ll be ready to say no when the day comes. She’ll probably call me a bald, jerky, autocratic hypocrite. “That’s right,” I’ll say. Then I’ll get on my bike and go for a ride.