This fun sponge says: Dad, put your helmet on!

This fun sponge says: Dad, put your helmet on!

Katja Fischer
Zurich, on 24.03.2022
Translation: Katherine Martin

My colleague in the editorial team recently wrote an article about why he, as a father, has no inclination to wear a bike helmet – or be a role model. The outcry was considerable. And I can’t let it go either.

Dear Martin, I had every intention of giving you an earful. The reason being that you don’t always wear a bike helmet when riding a bike with your kids. But you’ve already had a good kicking from the Community over your article. They said you were an irresponsible father; that your words were only intended to provoke; that your article was daft and inappropriate. I’d rather not give the stronger language that peppered the comments section a second airing. What I would like to share, though, is my own view on the matter.

  • OpinionFamily

    Why I, a father, don’t wear a bike helmet

In your opinion piece, you mentioned the duty of parents to be role models for their kids. For the most part, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Day after day, I’m supposed to set a good example for my children. But I often fail to do so.

  • I swear a lot.
  • I tell them off (too) loudly at least once a day.
  • I tell them fibs regularly.
  • My screen time is definitely too high.
  • Sometimes I smack my lips when I eat.
  • Or speak with my mouth full.
  • And every now and then, I keep my smartphone next to me at the dinner table.
  • Oh, and speaking of tables: the desk in my home office is pure chaos.
  • Tidying up is one of the things I enjoy putting off anyway.
  • Which reminds me: my wardrobe is bursting at the seams, and it’s high time I cleared it out.
  • And my daughters’ photo albums urgently need filling before the girls grow up and move out.

The list goes on and on. But I’ll spare you (and me) further details. I’m not proud of it. The point I’m making is I’m a poor role model for my children in many ways.

Not a perfect mother, not a perfect role model

But do you know what? It’s okay. And I had to learn to able to say that. Because for a long time, like many other mums, I felt obliged to be not just a good mother, but a perfect one. One that effortlessly juggled her family, job, hobbies and household, while, thanks to her daily yoga routine, staying relaxed and even-keeled. And guess what? I failed miserably.

I mean, we’re only human, aren’t we? Most importantly, we’re better role models for our children when we don’t always behave admirably – because then we’re being authentic. That’s what you wrote in your article. After all, it’s key that children see how we parents cope with imperfection, with mistakes.

But – and this is where I disagree with you completely – some things can’t just be chalked up as «authentic» or dismissed using the supposed-sense-of-freedom argument. Especially when it comes to our children’s safety. And when it comes to things like wearing a helmet, which you, as a father, oppose. Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks you crossed the line here.

«You can use the ‹because you’re kids and I’m not› argument when it comes to bedtime.»

You’ve crossed the line – and blotted your copybook

Why should your kids wear a bike helmet? Easy. Because it’ll protect them if they have an accident. And why should you, a dad, wear one? Exactly. You can use the ‹because you’re kids and I’m not› argument when it comes to bedtime. Or when you’re asked why you’re still munching on crisps in front of the TV late in the evening. But you can’t use it to settle the discussion of whether the family should wear bike helmets. I don’t need to mention that accidents can happen on «leisurely bike rides» as well. Law or not: you always wear a seatbelt in the car, don’t you?

You divided rules and regulations into three categories with examples that I’d like to go over again below. And in all conscience, I’d like to correct them:

  1. Rules I’d follow, even if I didn’t have children. For example, not littering.
  2. Rules that only partly make sense, that I still follow. For example, not jaywalking when children are present. Even if there’s no car in sight.
  3. Rules that I understand, but ignore nonetheless. Rules that aren’t debatable because they concern our health and safety. For example, wearing a bike helmet when children are around.

You’ll notice that I’m mutating into a patronising schoolmarm here. But let’s not go there – the Galaxus Community has already put you in your place. After all, you do paradoxically write that you wear a helmet when riding your racing bike or cycling for longer distances. You go on to say that, «There is, in fact, no rational reason not to wear a helmet.»

Fun sponges and boneheads

I’ll gladly answer the question you raise about whether or not wearing a helmet is perhaps a small, immature act of resistance against a society obsessed with regulating and banning things: yes, it is!

On the other hand, I observe the same phenomenon in my husband. He also likes to resist the rules from time to time, preserving a childlike rebellious streak inside him. I’ll leave the question of whether this has something to do with gender open for now. In many ways, his behaviour is actually legitimate. But not on the road or on the ski slope. Period.

At this point, I literally have to slam the brakes on the fun.

Sure, we’ve all got our flaws. And it does parents good to live on the edge occasionally. But not in traffic. You also write, «I just hope I don’t encounter any rough edges the next time I’m riding my bike without a helmet.» Better give wood – and your noggin – a good knock then!

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Mom of Anna and Elsa, aperitif expert, group fitness fanatic, aspiring dancer and gossip lover. Often a multitasker and a person who wants it all, sometimes a chocolate chef and queen of the couch.

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