Did you know you were training to be a parent on that last moto rally you attended? There are more similarities between riding and parenthood than you might realize. Here are 5 ways motorcycling prepares you for taking care of little ones.
1.Learning to Pack Functionally But Lightly
Moto traveling is long on fun and short on cargo space. Saddlebags, top cases, and tank bags can only carry so much, and you need to bring extra clothes, extra gear, emergency preparedness supplies, and sometimes a significant amount of food and water. You also want to minimize the weight and bulk of your bags as much as possible because less weight means more fun while riding. Packing for a moto trip is a skill you refine each time you get on the road.
This packing list and philosophy can be copied almost verbatim for parents preparing for an outing with their baby or toddler, whether it be a trip to the grocery store or a day at the beach. You need extra clothes to handle poop explosions, a stroller, and several baby carriers (one for every possible mood). You need meals, snacks, water, milk, and juice, all in the appropriate containers. You need blankets, toys, diapers and wipes and extra shoes. And you know what? You need to be able to carry it all either on your person or in your stroller while simultaneously wrangling at least one child. So everything you pack needs to be small, light, effective, waterproof, and unbreakable. Packing for a moto trip may actually be easier.
You communicate with car drivers, other motorcyclists not riding with you, and with others in your group. In many of these interactions, all parties involved are in some kind of excited state. Excited to be riding, excited because you almost ran them off the road, excited because you passed them on a double-yellow, excited because you made fun of Yamahas and they own a Yamaha, or whatever. You’re tired, you’re hot and sweaty or freezing cold, and you may or may not be jacked up on adrenaline and endorphins from your ride. Emotions run high when riding, and you need to work out conflicts and decide where to stop for lunch.
Communicating with babies and toddlers requires all the same skills – patience, intuition, imagination, empathy, and tolerance, all while under duress. You may have just been pooped or peed on, screamed at for hours, been told “no no no no no” to every communication tactic you tried… sigh. is it my turn to go for a ride yet?
The best way to have fun riding is to go with the flow. Walk out the door with a general plan for your day, but be ready to change it if other opportunities or obstacles pop up, and don’t be too stuck on a particular schedule – things will happen, and you will be late. Or maybe early, depending on what you encounter along the road.
There are different philosophies about scheduling babies and toddlers. Some people feel that you must.get.your.baby.on.a.schedule, and others think that is total nonsense. I land in the middle – much like riding, I think having a general plan for the day is a good idea, but I don’t bank on anything happening at a set time. There will be breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack or two, as well as a nap or maybe two. When these things happen depends on when ThrottleGirl woke up that morning, how she slept last night, is she sick, is she teething – there are many variables. Sleep when tired, eat when hungry, run errands and play in between. Let go of the by-the-clock schedule, and things just work better. This one has been hard for me to learn, and I have to re-learn it occasionally, both with ThrottleGirl and on rides.
4.A Little Basic Maintenance Goes a Long Way
Oil changes, chain adjustments, air filter cleaning, and replacing tires when necessary will go a long way towards keeping your bike happy. Neglect any of these areas of basic care, and you could end up on the side of the road with an unhappy bike.
Same thing with a toddler – feed them, bathe them, let them sleep, and they’ll be reasonably happy and well-behaved most of the time. If you don’t take care of their basic needs, they’ll be unhappy and uncomfortable and they’ll let you know it. You will not have a good day.
5. You Take the Good With the Bad
Motorcycling is a sport full of extremes, and everyone has a mixed experience. The sublime joy of riding on a sunny day when you’re feeling “on” is balanced by the agony of sitting beside your friend on the side of the road after a crash, talking to them to keep them awake while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The thrill of flying around the track faster and faster is tempered by the crashes, and the time and money spent repairing your bike, your gear, and your confidence. For some people, the risk isn’t worth the reward, and they very reasonably choose to stop riding. Those that keep riding learn to mentally manage the bad news, the crashes, and the risks, learning to take the good with the bad.
Getting into parenting is a lot like that – a long, difficult, beautiful road that starts before the child even enters the world. There are moments of extreme joy – the birth of your child, any time they smile at you with enough love to make your heart stop in your chest – and misery – a miscarriage, the crushing guilt you feel when they get hurt, the extremely difficult first year. You keep parenting through the bad times because of the good times, and you learn to embrace the difficult stuff, because that is a part of it, too.