The other day my seven-year-old daughter, Pippa, and I rode the flow trail at our local mountain bike park. We’d heard it was smooth and gentle enough for kids and she was desperate to try it, so even though it was her first day on a fat bike, and the sign at the top read “Technical Trail: Advanced Riders Only,” I said yes. Before we started, I coached her on the basics of downhill mountain biking: keep your weight back, your pedals level, and feather the brakes. Then she pushed off, shrieking with glee as she rolled over the first loamy whoop-de-woo.
I rode behind Pippa, watching her handle her bike with confidence, control, and joy. If there’s any sweeter sound than a little girl oohing and ahhing as she banks through turns and up and over dusty berms, I don’t know what it is. Still there were moments when I had to bite my tongue and resist the urge to scream Careful! or Slow Down!, half expecting to come around a corner and find her endo-ed in the dirt. The desire to protect our children from harm is innate and reflexive and, at times, all-consuming. As I like to joke to my husband, mothers’ worry is what keeps the human race alive. But too much can be limiting and, especially for girls, potentially detrimental to their development.