*hangs head in shame*

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

When I was in early elementary school, my favorite activities were riding my bike and playing baseball. My brother and I would ride our bikes to a friend's house where we'd play catch or hotbox. If we needed a break, we'd trade baseball cards.

It's possible these could be my kids' favorite activities, too, if only they knew how to do them.

There are three glaring skills I have failed to teach my kids, and it's getting more embarrassing by the month - not so much for them, but for me. I've had 6 and 8 years to impart these things to my two children, and yet I've managed not to.

The missing skill: Riding a bike without training wheels.

My poor excuse: In our neighborhood, some houses have crisp, white sidewalks, but they're bordered by houses with no sidewalks at all. That means the only reliable surface for bikes is the street, which is fine for adults and older children, but for kids who are just learning and don't realize that cars are also killing machines? It gives me heart palpitations.

But then I see a helmeted, smiling 4-year-old riding his bike down our street, expertly navigating the parked and moving cars, yelling to his fellow bike-riding friends and siblings, oblivious to sidewalk inconsistencies and his onlooking neighbor's humiliation.

The missing skill: Playing catch with a baseball and glove.

My poor excuse: So far we're a soccer family. We opted for other extracurricular activities over a second sport, so, while we throw balls around occasionally, neither child has a good mitt, and, much to my chagrin, I haven't taught them the mechanics of throwing or catching a baseball.

The missing skill: Lacing shoes.

My poor excuse: Velcro is so much easier. My family is perpetually late (again, my fault, not theirs), and the extra minutes it will take them to tie their shoes in the beginning is a knot I haven't been willing to untangle yet. But pretty soon their Puma Velcro kicks will give way to the tan, orthotic-looking grandma ones.

I recently told my son it was time to learn how to tie his shoes, and he responded, "Nah. I want you to keep doing it for me." This reminded me of the response I got from my daughter years ago when I asked her if she was ready for the potty. "No. I'll just go in my diaper and you can change me, Daddy," she said. She was 2! (There are some things you should tell, not ask.)

The overarching, dominant excuse for depriving my kids of these activities is time, which I can probably trace to the guilt I feel both when I'm working (not actively parenting) and not working (actively parenting, walking the dog, mowing the yard, cleaning the house, etc.). But we're all short on time. Even if it's real, it's a lame excuse.

The good news is, I recently put my son back on his bike sans training wheels, and he did remarkably well. (See? If you wait long enough, your kids will be coordinated enough to teach themselves!) And teaching my kids to play catch doesn't sound like work at all. It's been decades since I've purchased and oiled a leather baseball glove, but hopefully my kids will grow to love that smell as much as I did, and still do.

-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer who thought the boxes of baseball cards from his childhood would be worth much more by now.