We planned to take our two oldest grandchildren to the Netherlands. We envisioned them delighted to be in a truly beautiful country, enjoying the arts, the food, the biking.
So, you wonder, what could go wrong?
When we arrived in Amsterdam, we headed to a nearby bike rental shop. The bike guy took a look at grandson Luke’s height and sighed. Then he disappeared into the back and wheeled out a small bike emblazoned with “Girl Power” printed on the down tube. This was the only bike they had in his size. Luke made it quite clear: he would neverride that bike.
We walked to another bike shop. All of their bikes were bright red with their logos prominently displayed. We tried out bikes and adjustments were made. They had a helmet for our granddaughter, Ainsley. Luke had brought his own helmet from home. Ready to go? We could tell the grandchild weren’t happy. They told us that riding rental bikes marked them as “outsiders” and wearing helmets (when no one in Amsterdam wore one) was “totally humiliating.”
It didn’t help our grandchildren that they had to bike with us. They questioned the rules of the road. It didn’t help that, after we started biking, we stopped often to check the map to be sure that we were still on the bike path we needed to be on. Every call out from us to “stay on the right” and every stop for map work added to their humiliation as obvious tourists, the ultimate outsiders. What could be worse than being pegged as “tourists?”
We arrived at our hotel in Edam in the late afternoon to everyone’s joy. Our hotel dinner that night was delicious, but the hotel’s pace was slow. The kids held up admirably well during the 3-hr dinner.
They were groggy, grumpy, and tired all morning. Their preference was to get on the bikes to head directly back to Amsterdam after breakfast. “What?! Not see Edam after all of our effort to get here?” we pleaded.
The kids breathed a sigh of relief when we pulled into the Amsterdam bike store a few hours later. They dismounted, happily took off their helmets, and never looked back as they walked away.
As for us, we never could have imagined that a scenic bike ride would turn into such a humiliating experience for the grandchildren. We had a lot to learn about what makes an 11 year old happy.