Happy Cheetah Reading

Silent Screams at the Bike Shop

Growing up, when my family would go camping, my parents would take us on a hike in the morning, a hike in the afternoon, and a ranger talk in the evening. We were always on the go!

So when we go places now, I want to do it all!

So on our vacation, one day we had walked a boardwalk, hiked a forest trail, climbed a lighthouse, gone through a museum, toured a historic home, and enjoyed the waterfront. And we were ready for the big treat: rental bikes!

This is a favorite family activity on vacation. We live on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and since there are seven of us, we haven’t figured out how get our bikes from one spot to another. So if we can go for a bike ride, that is special indeed.

Now I have rented enough bikes to know: it’s going to take a while. Each person needs to be matched with the right style, and seats need to be adjusted. Since the law generally requires helmets, children need to try on and swap and adjust.

But after all our lovely, efficient activities, it felt shocking to run up against the much slower pace of the bike rental shop.

And, yes, there were eight of us, and we needed a children’s bike, a Burley, a tagalong, and four full-sized bikes.

But it took . . . an hour.

And there was no line in front of us.

Now, in fairness, we were there before peak season. The person who should have been manning the front of the shop had stepped away, so the person who helped us wasn’t used to the task. The Burley was brand new and needed assembly.

But even so . . . there came a time when I almost wanted to scream in frustration at how long this was taking.

Then I looked around.

No one was sunburned. No one was sad. The older children sat in the shade, just resting quietly. The three youngest were very happily excavating little dirty sand piles to see what collection of forgotten metal bits they could find. (A surprising array, I will say.) No one was hurt, or fussy, or even impatient.

So why was I frustrated? Because this wasn’t maximizing my checklist of fabulous experiences?


As if any of us really wanted to go out much longer than an hour anyway! (The unprepared backside can only take so much on the first day.)

Less impatience. More rest.

I noticed something similar when I started using the Happy Cheetah Reading System. I had been so focused on hard work, I hadn’t paid attention to the ways that I could actually help my son, ways that would have included more grace and less bootstrapping, ways that were less about getting things done and more about simply going through the process with patience and kindness.

I hadn’t wanted to prompt him with the words. Or read the story first. I hadn’t considered the ways that constant pushing was actually making things worse.

My impatience in the bike shop only hurt myself, and it resolved as soon as we got on the road.

But my impatience with my son hurt both him and me. And that has needed a longer road of healing, one we’re still traveling.

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