When Good Intentions Go Bad


Great stuff here from Shane Parrish over at Farnham Street on The Knowledge Project podcast. I’ve posted stuff before in relation to Jonathan Haidt and he continues to be full of insight and useful information. I’ll post a few standouts here, but the whole thing is really worth a listen – I can’t transcribe all the worthwhile commentary:

Some people have sent me quotes from ancient Greece, where they complained about the kids today and how they don’t respect their elders, and things like that. So partly, it is a constant generational thing. But the reason why Greg Lukianoff and I think that this is so different is because, never before have the mental health statistics just gone haywire for generations so quickly. So, whatever we’re doing, kids born after 1995 have really high rates of anxiety, depression, self harm, and suicide.”

As a parent – this should be a required listen. It’s at turns informative and terrifying if you let it be, but ultimately empowering.

I’m realizing that, in some ways, I have missed the boat a bit with my older two kids and I’m almost too late with the younger two, but there’s still value and ideas to be gleaned from this discussion. I wish I’d had this podcast – and Haidt’s insights in general – like, 6-8 years ago – but, if you listen, you’ll realize that in many ways we as a society and as parents had no way of knowing then the way the internet and social media would effect kids and their mental health, it was simply new, uncharted territory.

Any parents who are listening to this podcast, I urge you to follow a few simple rules. That is, two hours a day of screen time, not counting homework. And no social media until high school, and lots of free play outside. Let your kids out, especially by the age of seven or eight. Let them out to have unsupervised time with other kids, in a place that’s physically safe.”

These seem like, “well, duh” type revelations, but speaking from experience, I know I got very much caught up in the tendency and social pressures to over protect and shelter kids – with the best of intentions – versus how my generation was raised.

If you can imagine growing up, where in your teen years you’re always self censoring, you’re always careful, we think this is what’s happening. This is what many students tell us it’s like. They often just accept it as normal, because that’s all they’ve known. And this means we might have a generation that’s afraid to take risks, afraid to play with ideas. Afraid to challenge dominant ideas. It’s going to lead to a lot more conformity, a lot less creativity.

And much more great discussion here on learning the importance of how to disagree with people, how to engage with those you disagree with and the importance of surrounding yourself with people you disagree with and expose yourself to ideas that you might not like in order to grow as an individual which in turn makes you more of a benefit to society as a whole.

Exposing Truth on the Breakfast Loop

Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, Fredericton, New Brunswick

So couldn’t ride the bike to work today because, reasons, but did end up getting to work super early so decided to roll a Breakfast Loop. First one ever, I believe.

Fate does silly things. Came across this block on the sidewalk crossing the Westmorland Street bridge:

Sidewalk Psychology 101.

“Expose a truth about yourself…Vulnerability is Healthy!”

Ok then. Here goes: “I know there are aspects of parenting I’m failing at.”

Whoah. Pretty heavy for this early in the morning. Instead, here’s a bonus truth to lighten the mood:

“I have no known natural defenses against Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups”

Ok, session’s over. Make your next appointment with the secretary on the way out.

Art or Music?

If you had to choose only one to have, which would it be? Could you choose? Are they not both components of the essence that is life?

Letter from elementary school regarding music and art classes. Jilted grammar due to Google Translate as the letter comes initially in French.

For some years, whenever I have a kid approaching 6th grade, this is the letter I get from school. Due to what I can only assume is a lack of resources, kids have to choose if they’d prefer to have an art or a music class moving forward.

I have always felt, and continue to feel that this isn’t a choice kids should have to make.

Can you even separate art and music? Should we? What about language, storytelling, and culture – which are components of both – will kids at some point have to choose to leave behind some or all of those as well?

The Rise of ‘Sharenting’

Interesting article from The Atlantic, “When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online”, about parents who share their kids’ lives and images online – now referred to as ‘sharenting’. Back when I still had social media accounts, I didn’t share much about my kids – or photos of them – more out of fear of the pervs/stalkers out there or their peers potentially trying to mess with them. I’m embarrassed to say it never occurred to me to think how my kids themselves might feel about it. I do have a ton of photos of them on my Flickr account, but they are for the most part limited so only family members can see them and they are not available via search.

“For several months, Cara has been working up the courage to approach her mom about what she saw on Instagram. Not long ago, the 11-year-old—who, like all the other kids in this story, is referred to by a pseudonym—discovered that her mom had been posting photos of her, without prior approval, for much of her life. “I’ve wanted to bring it up. It’s weird seeing myself up there, and sometimes there’s pics I don’t like of myself,” she said.”

“Once kids have that first moment of realization that their lives are public, there’s no going back. Several teens and tweens told me this was the impetus for wanting to get their own social-media profiles, in an effort to take control of their image. But plenty of other kids become overwhelmed and retreat. Ellen said that anytime someone has a phone out around her now, she’s nervous that her photo could be taken and posted somewhere. “Everyone’s always watching, and nothing is ever forgotten. It’s never gone,” she said.”

“…92 percent of toddlers under the age of 2 already have their own unique digital identity. “Parents now shape their children’s digital identity long before these young people open their first email. The disclosures parents make online are sure to follow their children into adulthood,” declares a report by the University of Florida Levin College of Law. “These parents act as both gatekeepers of their children’s personal information and as narrators of their children’s personal stories.”

I feel fortunate now that, rather inadvertently, I’ve managed to leave it up to my kids what eventually makes it online about them, especially considering my own back and forth with social media and the Internet. It took me several years and the wisdom and experience of an adult to finally sort out what sort of ‘presence’ I wanted online – I can only imagine that process being intimidating or incomprehensible to my kids – a feeling that would only be exacerbated if I’d already shared copious information about them.

On Fatherhood

“I think the most important thing for a father these days is to just show that’s possible to do what you love and be really good at it. And then come home with tenderness and affection for them – missing them – and give them everything you’ve got when you get home and then start it all again the next day.

Figure out what it is that makes you happy, work hard, forget about the rest, come home, and be a good man, be a fucking man, and go to sleep and wake up early and do it again.”

J.T. Van Zandt

So much to unpack here, but some marks to strive for.

How to Bike Dad 101

After posting a photo on Instagram from after a ride this morning I had a buddy PM me:

“Dude. Explain to me how you are able to ride every damned day and post this spectacular shit to Facebook all the time with a mitt full of kids and a full time job??? Send me the secret immediately.”

I shot him a couple of replies and it occurred to me that they might make a decent blog post. Although I told him that really, looks can be deceiving and posting a picture every day does not necessarily mean a ride every day. That’s the magik of the Internet. However I did have a few tips I’ve garnered in my short time as a Bike Dad to offer up.

  1. My oldest kid has soccer practice 3x a week, roughly 1.5 hrs each time. Someone’s gotta drive her. Town is just far away enough it doesn’t make sense to drive back, so I bring the bike and that’s 3 rides a week right there. If I help out or make dinner beforehand and try and get all the ducks in a row as much as possible, the Wife’s happy to stay home and not drive.
  2. I lead a ride Saturday mornings and have purposely scheduled it stupid early – partly to avoid heat and traffic – but also because most of the Herd is still sleeping when I roll out. By the time I get back around 11, they’ve all only been up an hour or two and for the most part are still shuffling round in their jammies. If you’re willing to get up early, you can get tons of riding in and be back in a stellar mood and I don’t know about you, but once I’ve got a ride in, I’m so much happier to help out around the house and deal with the Daily Drama.
  3. Emma, the second oldest, is an eager rider, has an MTB and just got a road bike. Getting out with the kids isn’t as satisfying from a training aspect but more so in a thousand other ways. I used to get hung up on riding with my kids like ‘ugh, I’m not really getting a workout’ – I’m over that now – just happy to get out, and the positive family mojo is priceless.
  4. Commute, commute, commute, whenever possible. Don’t get hung up on going every day. If you have a family, chances are it’s not gonna happen every day. Get it when you can though, and it will make a huge difference. Remember what I said about getting up early? If you can get up even earlier, you can tack some distance onto your commute for a longer ride. A straight line from point A to point B is for suckers.
  5. I guess when all else fails, drag the kids with you. A hassle sometimes but better than no ride at all. When mine were little, we had a Chariot trailer/stroller for years. Huge. Well worth the investment and easily resellable. Conversely, pretty easy to find used  as people are always outgrowing ’em. In my opinion the Chariots are great because they work for walking and jogging too.

Those were the gist of what I sent him. Since then while pondering it I’ve thought of a few more.

  • For two years now I’ve been an instructor with Sprockids Fredericton teaching 7-12 year olds how to shred in the woods. I signed my two youngest up the first year and again this year. One thing I did learn is that I’d rather not have them in my own group – that’s hard – and I didn’t the second year, but other than that, all good mojo and ride time. They get out, I get out and we share that together. They’re much more excited and eager to go on rides outside of Sprockids because of the confidence they’ve gained. And we all know how kids love to show off stuff they’ve learned.
  • I’ve stopped worrying about what kind(s) of rides I get in. Any ride is a good ride. Ride to lunch? Good. 3 hr. MTB epic? Good. 1 hour teaching kids to not go over the bars on downhills, good. Don’t worry about getting that 75k training road ride in, chances are if you’re doing things right, your window will come.

What the hell does that mean, “my window will come?” Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, when I ride bikes on a regular basis, I’m generally a better guy to be around. I’m happier. I contribute more at home. Am more willing to help out, take on more work, and less selfish. I’m generally a better partner to my Wife. In addition, any time you can get at least some of the kids out of the house, wear them out, and make it easier on your partner, that’s brownie points in the bank, man. It might not seem like it at the time, but wait. Times come now where my Wife will actually tell me to go on a bike ride. And when I do plan big rides, I do so with her involvement, making sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed so I can get out with a (relatively free) conscience. She knows. The positive mojo is  a perpetual machine, it just keeps giving back.

At some point I made the decision to switch from being someone who rides bikes to making a conscious effort to make riding bikes what I do. Thinking from a place of trying to make riding bikes an integral part of who I am has led to new ideas on how to fit rides into busy schedules and everyday life.

Honestly, the hardest part about riding bikes so much is finding the time to properly maintain 10+ of them. I need my own service course.