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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
spacer
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 08.12.06
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Stupid helmet!

Busted!

The last thing Deb said to me as I left the house was "Don't let Emily see you." I figured I was up too early for any of the kids to catch me so I smiled and waved and headed off to work on my bicycle.

Coming home at lunch, I turned the corner and drove right past my eldest daughter and her friend. She saw me. She smiled. We chatted briefly. I biked on.

She didn't say it but I know what she was thinking:

"Dad's not wearing his helmet."

It hasn't yet, but this will come back to haunt me.

She'll want to ride her bike somewhere and will be fighting us on wearing her helmet. She hates helmets. It's gotten to the point where she refuses to ride her bike rather than put one on. And now she'll have ammo:

"Well, Dad doesn't wear his so why should I?"

Drat.

We've hammered home the need to wear a helmet with all our kids from the moment they started riding tricycles. We wanted helmets to become second nature, like getting in a car and buckling your seatbelt. If we could show them films of gruesome bicycle accidents the way they used to in Driver Ed class, we would.

There are so many good reasons to wear a helmet.

I hate wearing a helmet.

Officially, I resist wearing a helmet because I didn't grow up with one and so I'm not used to it. I find them uncomfortable, hot, and itchy.

I know in my heart, though, that my problem with bike helmets is that they make me look like a dork. I mean, more of a dork.

This isn't vanity but self-consciousness. There's a difference. Vain people spend hours on their hair because they want to look fantastic and believe, in fact, that they do. Self-conscious people simply fear the prospect of small children pointing and laughing.

I became conscious of how others perceive me some time in high school, probably around the time my first serious girlfriend informed me that she could identify me from a distance because I walked like a spider.

I still don't know what she meant but I don't think it was a compliment. We broke up soon after.

It took a subsequent girlfriend to make me aware that I had a big nose. I ended up marrying that one.

So when you're a big-nosed, spider-walking guy, you tend to resist slapping on an unstylish helmet and becoming a big-nosed, spider-walking, bug-head guy.

But parents must set examples for their children. And so, just as I've curtailed my habit of running with scissors, I try dutifully to wear my bicycle helmet, regardless of the pointing and laughing children.

Since I got caught, I've been quite conscientious about it. Unless no one's around or "I'm late" or I "can't find it."

Leading by example doesn't seem to be working, however. Despite the fact that we bought her a helmet that she deemed sufficiently not ugly to wear and the fact that I peddle down the main street in my goofy headgear, smiling sheepishly at friends who cry out mockingly "Nice helmet!" Emily is still fighting us over wearing it.

"I'm at as much risk getting hit by a car walking as I am biking. I suppose I have to wear a walking helmet too?" she argues.

And:

"Show me one person around here who has ever had a bicycle accident."

I consider mentioning her little brother but using as an example 10-year-old boys who flip their bikes while jumping piles of sand behind the municipal garage probably won't help my argument.

I think I might actually be losing this battle - which makes me wonder why I'm bothering to wear the stupid helmet if it's not having any positive effect on her.

Maybe I'll take a header over my handlebars just to prove I'm right. That'll show her!

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