With kids, sometimes it takes an extreme lesson to truly make an impact. Sometimes, you have to get creative with your safety lessons to really help them understand that you’re not just being mean and trying to ruin their fun.
My kids are the kind of kids who want to know why something is unsafe. We watch crash test videos. We have vivid safety lessons. To show them why their car seat harness has to be snug, we let them adjust the harness in our lightest weight seat, and my husband flipped the seat upside down. Have you ever ridden a roller coaster with the harness too big? When you go upside down, you hit the harness pretty hard and it isn’t comfortable. Same thing with the car seat harness. Then we adjusted the harness correctly, and suddenly it became funny to be upside down since they were simply and comfortably suspended there.
When explaining that a second story bedroom window was not a safe place to play near, we had them stand on the sidewalk below the window. Then I dropped an over-ripe watermelon out of the window. The exploded melon made quite the visual impact when we explained that that is what could happen to your head if you fall out of the window.
Some parents think even those lessons are too harsh. Those parents would definitely not like my most recent safety lesson….
A little background information:
We ride off-road motorcycles as a family. We take the appropriate precautions to decrease the risks in our activity. The boys have roost guards, proper riding boots, gloves, goggles, and DOT approved off-road helmets. My husband has all of that, plus knee and elbow pads (we do have knee pads for the older son, but he won’t wear them). I don’t have knee/elbow pads or a roost guard. On the bottom of all of our helmet visors, I have taped a copy of the Emergency Information card that Sunshine Kids/Diono attaches to their Radian car seats.
My husband and I both carry our cell phones, which work in our local riding area, and our wallets with ID and health insurance cards. Hubby also carries a backpack with snacks, water, and a well-stocked first aid kit. At some point, I will edit this post to include a list of what is in our FAK.
Our family knows where we ride and when to expect us to return. When we all ride together, we sandwich the boys between the adults to ensure that the kids are visible and protected by a full sized rider since most other riders are likely not watching for half-sized bikes. We added bright flashing front and rear LED lights to both kid bikes to maximize their safety. The boys were not allowed to ride a motorcycle until they had ridden a bicycle for a full year. They learned in the safety of our fenced yard under close supervision. Their bikes have throttle limiting screws so we can control how fast they are able to go. They have to be able to lift the bike from a 45-70 degree angle. Their bikes weigh 125 lbs for the 7 year old, and 85 lbs for the 5 year old. Neither of them can lift their bikes if they are fully on their sides, but usually the side of the trail is such that the bikes are rarely totally on their sides.
My husband has been riding motorcycles for 20 years, both on and off-road. I used to ride on the back of his street bike with him in our BC (Before Children) days. He sold his street bike shortly after our oldest son was born because of the inherent risks of being on a motorcycle in a country traveling in cars and SUVs. Our older son began riding August 2012, and our younger son started riding July 2013. I started riding my own motorcycle in about June 2013, so even our 7 year old has more experience than I do. I ride at the end of the line, and frequently have to get off my bike to run up and help a kid bike over a branch or help pick up a bike on its side.
And now my (hopefully) very effective, but very expensive safety lesson.
On Sunday, October 6th, 2013, we went riding as a family at a riding area about an hour and half North of our home. It is a sanctioned and maintained legal off-road vehicle park. My husband has ridden there often. I’ve ridden there about 4-6 times. There’s a variety of trails, from fairly flat forestry roads to pretty technical trails for advanced riders. We ride a lot of the roads, but also ride the easier wooded trails the even little kids and new riders can navigate, perhaps with a little help from an experienced rider. On this particular ride, our younger son didn’t want to ride his own bike, but chose instead, to ride with Daddy on Daddy’s bike. He sits in front of hubby and holds on to the cross bar of the handle bars. I fully trust my husband to ride safely and use his best judgement to avoid risks to our son.
We rode for a few hours and decided to head back to the car for a snack and potty break around 2pm. To get there, we had to ride a few miles on the forestry roads. No big deal.
Unless you ride behind a not-quite-seven year old. You see, young children are prone to random actions, including stopping suddenly for no obvious reason. My son stopped, for no obvious reason in the middle of the road. I was following at a safe distance, but lack the experience to respond quickly and appropriately every time. So I grabbed my front brake instead of us
ing my rear brake. I was going slow, so I didn’t fly over the handle bars, but I did drop my bike and slide across the road Superman style, because I never learned to tuck and roll as a child because I am not a risk-taker. I got back up, picked my bike up and got back on. I went to pass my now moving son to tell Hubby we needed to break to explain to children that you cannot just stop to look at butterflies or whatever.
And he DID IT AGAIN. This time, his pushed up sleeve had fallen down, so he stopped to push it back up. This time, however, I was not at a safe following distance because I was getting ready to pass him. And because I am apparently not a fast learner, I grabbed my front brake AGAIN. This time I was not so lucky as to slide across the road on my stomach.
This time, I slammed my right foot down as the bike was going down. Apparently, with my knee locked. All I know is that I was rather suddenly knocked on my butt with pain. I collapsed on the ground, rolled onto my back, grabbed my leg and screamed a string of obscenities I won’t repeat here. They just came out. That’s when Hubby knew there was a problem. He parked his bike, got the little guy off and ran (on his sprained knee) in his riding boots the short distance up the hill to where I was writhing in pain. He asked what happened and I told him, “I broke my ******* leg.” He naturally asked if I was sure. Um, yes. He removed my boot and the lower part of my zip-off pant leg to check for protruding bones or places in obvious need of major stabilization.
I told him to get me the FAK. We wrapped my knee in the Ace bandage with the instant ice pack and downed four ibuprofen. Then I added my neoprene wrist wrap at the top because the bandage wasn’t enough. I already no longer had a knee; just a really long thigh.
Now the fun part was figuring out how to get me to the hospital. We couldn’t get the car past a gate a mile down the road. We had to get me down the hill. On the back of the motorcycle. I had to hold my leg up with my pant leg and hope for the best. Hubby was careful to go slow and avoid bumps. He did very well too! My leg only touched the ground once in a mile. He left the Young One with me at the gate and rode back up to where he had left his bike with the Older One…on the Older One’s little bike. When they returned to us, Hubby left both boys with me while he rode back to the car much more quickly than he could have with either kid with him.
He loaded his bike up and came back to us. The boys were actually very helpful in loading up bikes and gear. I was pretty calm and collected considering I had a broken leg. Hubby helped me carefully wedge myself into the front seat with minimal movement of my throbbing leg, and got in the driver’s seat. While he drove toward the main road, I programmed the GPS to find the nearest ER. Then I called both of our Moms. One was to meet us at the ER, one was to head to our house to collect the kids after Hubby dropped me off at the hospital.
I went almost immediately into radiology. The technician contorted his face all over the place as he viewed my imaging. I can’t imagine why…(sarcasm) He called it “crunchy”.
The orthopedic surgeon for the hospital looked at my images and came into my room to tell me that he would not touch me, but I needed surgery if I wanted to walk again. He had already ordered an ambulance for me and notified our regional trauma center that I would be en route shortly. As much fun as that sounded, I really wanted to avoid all that but the threat of losing my leg sounded much worse. They pumped me full of pain meds and loaded me up.
Off I went to our regional trauma center! Yay? Hubby met me there as I was being checked in in ambulance receiving. I spent the night in the Orthopedic Trauma floor, waiting for the swelling to go down enough that the surgeon would have a good chance of a successful surgery. If swelling didn’t go down significantly, they would have to attach an external fixator to my leg for a week to stabilize it and operate later.
On Monday afternoon, I finally headed into the OR. The surgeon was hopeful that she would be able to stabilize my bones without needing to utilize bone grafts (read: dead people bone tissue), and that I would walk again, but it was an extremely delicate procedure that would involve a titanium plate and pins on a bone very close to a major joint. I woke up 5 hours later without an x-fix, which I was very glad of. But my view was still a little unsettling.
I ended up staying at the trauma center until Wednesday. I called the Older One’s school and let him stay home on Monday with Nana and Grandma. When I came home, I came with the instructions to be completely non-weight bearing on that leg for three full months to allow it to heal. It has been a long and difficult road to recovery, for all of us, but we’re making it with the help of family and friends.
The important lessons for the kids?
1) Don’t tailgate.
2) Don’t stop for no reason.
3) Learn to use your safety equipment (like brakes) properly and practice until everything is second nature BEFORE you need it.