Use your head and put something on it

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The sunny days and warmer weather have gotten kids and parents out on their bikes, scooters, and in-line skates once again. On the sidewalks and park paths, each morning in the steady stream of kids heading to school on their vehicles, I’m happy to report that the vast majority of heads are packed into helmets, protecting young noggins from the vagaries and dangers of the urban pavement. But I routinely see dads — moms too, but mostly dads — scooting, skating, or pedaling along with their progeny, bare headed, overwhelming me with their stupidity.

Really, what sense is there in making children use protective gear when parents don’t?

My girls caught on right away. The first time we went skiing, I told them to wear helmets. They pointed at me and asked why I didn’t have one and why should they if I won’t. I’ve used one ever since. They understood that while there are things adults do that children can’t, safety really isn’t one of them

I get it guys. Bike helmets, in particular, are not sexy and can be awkward and uncomfortable.

Spend a few extra bucks, if it soothes your vanity, and get a groovy, stylin’ fashion accessory that also happens to minimize or stop traumatic brain injury from happening should you get tossed from your two-wheeler.

Another option, get the whole outfit from spandex leggings to a supercool racing helmet. Whatever it takes.

Once my kids and I were on vacation, getting ready to bike for ice cream, a short ride from where we were staying. I got my girls geared up and then started to go without putting on my helmet, preferring my baseball cap.

The message I was about to give them — that when they’re adults they can take unnecessary and irresponsible risks — was antithetical to so much of what I talk to them about. Modeling appropriate behavior is something I try to do every day and if I’m unwilling to wear my gear then I’m sure they’ll toss theirs aside at the first possible opportunity. That undermines the point of all these childhood safety lessons.

More importantly, being a parent has a lot of responsibilities attached. Caring for and protecting my children seems obvious, but my own safety is important too. How am I going to take care of kids if I can’t remember their names, or worse, can’t feed myself?

Brain injuries are almost never reversible and can cause symptoms from minor personality changes to loss of language, mobility, and the ability to care for yourself.

I’m not trying to say that for 18 years or more, parents must give up every bit of fun and eliminate all risks from our lives.

There are, however, some basic steps to take: don’t drink and drive, don’t use a table saw without goggles, don’t ski in avalanche zones, and don’t bike, scoot, or skate without a helmet.

As my wise pediatrician put it many years ago, bones heal, brains don’t.

Read The Dad every other Thursday on
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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