A little while ago, I received a phone call from a friend. It went something like this:
"I'm not sure how to tell you this, I hope you won't be cross with me.....I've spotted your daughter riding back from school a number of times over the last few weeks, not wearing her cycle helmet....It's just swinging from her handle bars".
I mulled over this information for a while, wondering how best to tackle the subject with The Teenager; I knew that my usual 'all guns blazing' approach would have very little success (I'm learning, albeit slowly!). The Teenager had been given a new bike, for the express purpose of cycling to school. Although the route is straight-forward and at only 2 miles, not overly taxing, it is on a main road and in my opinion, whether she is cycling on the pavement or not, a helmet is required.
This particular day she had yet to put her bike in the garage, a job which generally requires me to unlock it, whilst she wheels it in. We went out together and I took the opportunity to bring up the subject of the helmet. Unlike her younger sister, The Teenager has zero ability to lie successfully. As her cheeks began to blush and she could no longer lock her eyes with mine, she and I both knew that she had been well and truly busted.
"I hate it, it's so ugly and messes up my hair. No one wears a cycle helmet to school!"
I took a couple of deep breaths, in an attempt to keep a handle on my instinct to rubbish her response, and took stock of the situation. The reality is, that once children reach a certain age, their appearance and street cred becomes of far greater importance than anything their parent says.
One family who can testify to this is the Smith family, whose son Ryan was knocked off his bike in July of this year. At 16 years of age, Ryan regularly rode his bike to work. He was fit, a keen sportsman and very popular with his peers. Like most teenagers, he cared about his appearance. On this day, he chose not to wear a helmet, for fear of messing up his hair. Two months after the accident, Ryan is still in a coma and despite making significant progress, he has suffered permanent brain damage.
Ryan made a decision that day, which has affected the rest of his and his family's life. He made a decision which a lot of teenagers would make - fashion over safety. Haven't we all been there?
Thankfully my daughter is only 13, which makes it easier to explain the gravity of the situation to her, in the hope that my words still hold some importance. But one day, my little girl will be 16 and less interested in listening to my 'hot air' or indeed care about those well-meaning friends who have her best interests at heart.
It's for this reason that I'm standing alongside the Smith family by signing a petition to get cycle helmets made a legal requirement. Once upon a time, we weren't required to wear seat belts in cars, now we wouldn't dream of going anywhere without one.
Please help to save lives by signing the petition and if you're interested in following Ryan's progress and the amazing work his family are doing to raise awareness in schools, please 'like' their facebook page - The Ryan Smith Foundation.
|Ryan and his Dad - photo courtesy of The Mirror|
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