Outsourced Parenting

Zacharie riding a bike

[twitter]Last summer we registered our 4 yr old in a program called Pedalheads. It’s a tiered program for kids that teaches them bike safety, and how to ride a bike. My wife’s friends swore by it, so once a week we packed up our boy and bike and took him to a park to ride with other kids.

At the time he still had training wheels on his bike. By the end of the first class they were gone. I had missed one of those ultimate parenting milestones. The one where you watch your kid fall, then pick your kid up, and encourage him and hold him and then .. let go, and watch them fly – on two wheels.

My son did all that, with an 18 year old camp counsellor holding the back of his seat. Not his dad.

It’s called outsourced parenting, and more of us are doing it.

My wife and I both work, so we have a live-in nanny.  In our community they’re very popular considering the lack of reasonable child-care spaces and the cost benefit of paying one salary to look after 2 kids, instead of paying for 2 daycare spaces.

For 6 to 8 hrs a day, she’s the one reading books to the boys, doing crafts, playing at the park, helping them learn their letters.  It’s what we pay her for, and it’s no different than if they were in a daycare, or school — but it’s not my wife or I helping our boys up those first few steps. It’s someone else.

Outsourced parenting.  It sounds so evil.

I admit, I have heard anecdotes about families at the pool where the nanny is the one jumping in the water while mom and dad barely nod while they peck away at their smartphones.  Our family is not like that; my and my wife’s schedules overlap so we are with our boys a lot.

But still. I admit it: I am outsourcing my parental duties.

Nick Pavlaikis is the media liaison for Pedalheads and told the Calgary Herald he has heard the discussions that parents are shirking their responsibilities by putting their kids in a class to learn something like how to ride a bike.

He defends his program as a life skill learned in a safe environment, surrounded by other kids, and with professional instruction.

Okay, that’s a good argument, but what about the part where a dad can’t take the time to teach his kid how to ride a bike?

My son did well in that Pedalheads class. By the end of the week he was tooling around the grass all on his own.  That was the last time he rode his bike last summer.  This lame outsourcing dad didn’t find the time to take him to the park 3 blocks away from the house the rest of the summer.  We found the time to hike, we found the time to geocache, we found the time to swim, but we didn’t find the time to ride a bike.

My son turns 5 in 2 weeks.  He has a new bike, with training wheels.  He’s been riding it every day.  We go out into the cul-de-sac and practice every night.  He’s been asking for the wheels to come off.  I told him that once he’s back used to riding a bike, they’ll come off again.  Probably on his birthday.

Then we’ll go to the park.  I’ll hold the back of his seat, I’ll run with him for a few yards and then I’ll let go …

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