Friday, April 11, 2014

A Young Hero's Odyssey

The cover of this month's edition of the children's magazine Spider shows a dog on a bicycle carrying a recycling bin while pedaling around the globe.

That's a reference to Earth Day on April 22 and to an article in the magazine entitled, "A Young Hero's Odyssey," written by Susan Patnaik.  The "young hero" is my son, Sho Scott, and the odyssey is our 2,500-mile bicycle trip across Japan when he was eight years old.  Sho is probably the youngest person ever to have cycled from one end of mainland Japan to the other.

The article includes a map of our route...

... and some cool photos:


We raised money for a global tree planting campaign, gave talks about ways to protect the environment, and used press coverage about our trip to encourage action to address climate change.  The United Nations named us "Climate Heroes" for these efforts.  You can find Sho's "Healthy Planet Tips" here.

In the first week of our 67-day ride across Japan, Sho threw several major temper tantrums.  He was having trouble adjusting to the demands of cycling many hours a day.  I felt insecure, worried that my expectations were too high, and considered giving up on the whole trip.  But then we had a conversation in which I encouraged Sho to see himself as a team member.  I explained that I couldn't cycle across Japan without him, and I promised to listen and make adjustments whenever he was having trouble.  

What happened next taught me an important parenting lesson.  Sho rose to the occasion, the temper tantrums disappeared, and for the next 60 days, he persevered though rain storms, cycled over mountain passes, slept in a tent, and pedaled through hot and humid conditions -- all with a remarkably positive attitude.  Many adults we met said that such a trip was too hard for an eight-year-old.  But Sho told them, "A kid can do a whole lot more than most adults think."  He had learned to be resilient.

Sometimes parents give in to their children too quickly, give up too readily and miss out on the chance to teach how to persevere when things get hard.  High expectations combined with love and open communication may be one of the best gifts we can give our kids.

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