5.19.2014

Helmet Hair: Why we wear helmets. Always.

The other day I was riding my bike around the block and my neighbor said, "Look at you in your helmet," which is a nicer way of saying what the Engineer told me when I bought it: "You look like a dork."

Takes one to know one. #burn

via teamskelley on Instagram

In all seriousness, I am very strict on helmets. I have been known to stick helmets on neighborhood kids if they show up helmet-less in my yard. I have a very good reason for being that way.

When I was in the fourth grade - my son's age - my friend Patrick was riding his four wheeler through the fields around his house when he went to cross over a road and was hit by a truck. As a result, my active, baseball-playing friend became paralyzed from the neck down and would remain that way for the next twenty years, until he passed away in his thirties.

For several years after the accident, I visited him in his home with various groups of friends. He put on a brave face and would smile, although he could not talk. The drive home was always very quiet. Eventually he was able to come back to school in a motorized wheelchair with a nurse. When I ran into him in high school, I would always wave and say, "Hey Patrick!" as I headed to class. I never stopped to talk to him because I thought that I was doing the right thing by treating him like he was normal - as though he was like everyone else.

I did not expect it to hit me as hard as it did when he died. "Hey Patrick!" haunted me. Why didn't I ever STOP? Why didn't I talk to him more? Why didn't I keep in touch? We had been friends since we were little kids. It is a regret that I will always have.

It is very difficult for me to see children not wearing helmets. When The Bestie was here last weekend, we watched a neighbor ride down the street on a four wheeler - albeit very slowly - holding a baby. Neither of them wore helmets. Liv and I just looked at each other. We both know how quickly and how tragically it can all go wrong. I would confidently say that every student in Mrs. Mason's fourth grade class, if not our entire grade, is probably militant about helmets today. Because we saw what could happen. And it is awful.

Please PLEASE teach your children to always wear helmets. I am not here passing judgement or criticizing my neighbors. No one ever thinks that it will happen to them. It is hard to understand how serious the consequences are unless you see them firsthand. I hope they never do.

This is our fourth grade photo with Patrick is in the center wearing the Coke shirt. Longtime readers of the blog will recognize my lifelong friend and birthday buddy Stephanie beside him and that kid in the corner with the crazy hair might look a little familiar too. I have always thought about what happened to my friend from a kid's point of view. But now that I am a parent of my own fourth grader (for the next week, at least) it is a whole different aspect of grief. I look at my active son and to take away what gives him the most joy in his life - being outside, playing sports with his friends - it is more than I can bear.


Please wear a helmet. It is such a small way to keep you and your children safe.

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1 comment:

  1. Great message, Katie. The town where I grew up passed a bike helmet law for everyone under age 16 about 10 years ago and it is so strange to me when I see kids not wearing helmets. I, too, used to hate wearing a bike helmet, but I know so many people who have had horrible bicycle accidents (at least two that have ended the same way your friend's situation did) that it seems ridiculous not to wear one.

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