When it comes to parenting styles, I would call mine “choose your battles,” but one battle I never back down on is bike helmets. I even go toe to toe with my 18-year-old daughter on this one, it’s simply what we do, we wear bike helmets every time, even though it isn’t law in our state. We keep the helmets updated and have fun styles for the kids, and if I ever had a moment’s doubt, that spill my son took that dinged up his helmet has firmed up our resolve all the more. He was shaken and scraped, but totally fine, and that’s how I want to keep it! Here are more reasons to use them every time:

  1. The statistics are clear on the importance of helmet use.
  2. If you let it go once, it will be that much harder to make them wear it next time.
  3. It improves visibility, the flash of color or reflectors on the helmet can make it easier to be seen.
  4. Helmets protect from the weather as well.
  5. Because brains deserve protection!
  6. It only takes one time without to cause a life time of regret.

My reasons are more personal, though. First was a bike accident I had as a child. I thought I was cool riding my sister’s old bike after she upgraded, but I couldn’t handle it on the hills, and I crashed. This was before bike helmets were even a thing, and I was knocked out on a hill on a street with a 55 mph speed limit. My sister was old enough to babysit, but too young to know what to do when I went in and out of consciousness and started vomiting. I never want my children to go through what I went through after that accident, days of nausea and splitting headaches. Nights of sleeplessness and weeks of brain fog; and I was a lucky one!

In my days working as a paramedic, I witnessed far worse. I’ve had to race to the hospital with children (and adults) whose lives were in the balance after an accident without a helmet, wondering if they would recover, and if so, if they would ever be the same. And I’ve sat on the roadside with those for whom there was nothing I could do. Bereft, powerless to console parents who had lost a beloved child; parents who have to live the rest of their lives with the question of whether the choice to wear a helmet could have saved their child’s life. Those accidents are the origin of my nightmares, the ones that waken me in a cold sweat, so many years after the fact. Those accidents never leave my subconscious. I can only imagine what those parents live with. 

I know, without a moment’s doubt that it can happen to me, and it’s a risk I refuse to accept when the solution is so simple. I plead with you, dear parents, do not let this be the summer that changes your life forever. Do not give in, even just that one time. Make them wear their helmets, every time. Hopefully they will never need it, but if they do, you will never regret it. And parents, suck it up and wear yours too, okay?

Alethea Mshar

Alethea Mshar is a mother of four children; an adult child who passed away of a drug overdose, one typical daughter and two sons who have Down syndrome, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder and complex medical needs. She has written "What Can I Do To Help", a guide to stepping into the gap when someone you know has a child diagnosed with cancer, which is available on Amazon, and is publishing a memoir titled, "Hope Deferred". She can be found on Twitter as leemshar, and blogs for The Mighty HuffPost as Alethea Mshar, as well as her own blog, Ben's Writing Running Mom on https://benswritingrunningmom.wordpress.com/. She is also on Facebook as Alethea Mshar, The Writing, Running Mom.