We are not sugar cubes: A love letter to my daughter

cc licensed photo shared by flickr user madpoet_one

Let me brag about a couple of things which I think are worthy of boastfulness, though others may think are horrifying.

First, I live very close to the school that I ply my trade in. Very close, as in, I could probably sneak out at any time, race home, put on a blue spandex suit with a big red ‘S’ on my chest, come back, and people would think there was a phone booth outside the school.

Second, my eldest of three children, Yumi, has recently begun attending the same building as a student. She’s in grade 4, and she’s as jubilant about this as a squirrel who has found a Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar.

One of the best things Yumi and I do is ride to and from school together on our respective bikes. It’s a special thing. I shudder to think that there might eventually be a time when feeling the wind brush back our eyebrows while coasting on our mountain bikes together will be an unappreciated endeavour. Sometimes I even find myself getting choked up, cruising behind her while watching her Β little body, capped off with a mushroom-like bike helmet, bobbing up and down. She tries to talk to me and tell me about mundane moments of her day, and most of the time I have to yell, “Tell me later, honey, I can’t hear you!”

It’s been interesting to observe others’ reactions to Yumi and I. It’s perhaps a sign of the times.

The first reaction is surprise that we ride to school in the first place. Everyone burns gas to get to their destinations, you know. I’m not trying to jump on my high horse here; I understand that most people are captive to our bizarre, sprawling infrastructures, that context is king, and that everyone’s family decisions are often based on circumstance. It does concern me, however, that many people seem to have simply discounted travelling to school by foot or by pedal as an option. Like it’s Cherry Cola or something; it doesn’t exist any longer.

Another response I’ve received is one of mild horror when people realize I sometimes allow my daughter to walk/ride to school by her lonesome. The distance is 900 metres. That’s half a mile. We’re talking 984.252 yards.

Once, on a rainy day in September, I actually had a stranger admonish me for riding home in the rain with Yumi. I was flabbergasted. Are we sugar cubes?

I don’t think they realize I’m trying to raise eagles, not budgies.

At this point I have to step off my soapbox in the interests of: a) preventing blograntism, and b) keeping this post for what it is.

This post is a dad’s love letter to his daughter. I adore eating pho with you on our lunch dates at Sweet Basil. I treasure getting a glimpse of your face in the hallways. And I get all fuzzy in my stomach when we’re cruising around the streets together, ringing our bike bells.

drawing by Yumi Lee


  1. Eloquent, simple and loving, the best of everything Royan. And you are right, our daughters are not sugar cubes but eagles, I will carry that with me.

  2. Love this post. My eldest is only 2& 1/2 and I am already finding myself choked up at moments when I realize he’s growing up fast. I also haven’t really considered the environmental implications of commutes (see that board survey?); and I must confess that I secretly want to drive a pick up truck. Maybe I ought to put myself on the transfer list and rollerblades to work.

  3. I too have my youngest daughter in 4th grade and am savouring every little moment with her. She’s at the height of childhood and growing too fast. It chokes me up to think she will turn into a teen like the other two! I shall cherish her even more after reading your article. Thanks!

  4. My daughter has been at my school for the past 5 years. Next year will be the last. I drove to work by myself recently and thought about what it will be like when she is no longer sharing rides and the school day with me. We don’t live in each other’s pockets, but I like knowing she’s around and I enjoy what we can share because we exist in the same spaces. It’s something special that I will always hold dear. I hope she feels the same way.

  5. Yup..it’s true. I work in the same school that my kids attend…. and nothing beats the warm fuzzy feeling when I catch a glimpse of their faces in the hall or at a school assembly. I too, am dreading the day when it’s no longer cool to say “Hi Mom!” when we pass each other.
    Until then, I plan to savour the pleasure of being able to somewhat merge my work and family worlds.
    We are truly lucky teachers to share these moments with the kids that matter the most to us!

  6. If I try hard I think I can still feel the imprint of my son’s head on my back, between my shoulder blades, where he fell asleep while he was in the backpack carrier and we were walking to the library to get a copy of “Where The Wild Things Are”. Last week he changed his FB status to “in a relationship”. What? How did that happen? It goes by in a blink. Every once in a while he forgets himself and takes my hand and I hold my breath and cherish it, wondering if it might be the last time my ‘little boy’ holds my hand. Tempus Fugit and we see that in the faces of our children. It is at once both the most beautiful and the saddest thing I know. Thanks πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for recording this moment in time for your family archives and blogging about it. sometimes I get too involved in the details of the day to see what is really important . Thanks for the perspective.

  8. I’m all weeped up, here. Thanks for the chance to hear the voices of those who teach at their neighbourhood school, and therefore, share a school with their own kids. As the Core French teacher, I go one step more, and teach my kids. (Yikes!)

    This week, my spouse has been away, and that has meant the amazing gift of a walk to school together every morning, for younger small boy and me. Older small boy, attending a new school, is riding his bicycle by himself (he advocated for this, finding a safe route using googlemaps), and rides down to meet us after school. We have admired the gradually changing colours, played in the water as a neighbourhood pool drained, and visited with the neighbourhood dogs. Walking to school with my kids rocks, and is one of the HUGE benefits of where I work.

    Here’s to watching eagles soar!

  9. Hmmm, perhaps raising a budgie/eagle cross….yesterday, older small boy realized upon arriving at school that he had ridden without his helmet. So…being responsible, he walked his bike down to meet us at the end of the day. I was actually kind of impressed. πŸ™‚

  10. I love this post Royan–it’s heartfelt, sincere, gives us something to think about, and I adore the picture that Yumi drew (she left out the cute mushroom helmets!). I was actually driving (unfortunately I can’t bike to work given the distance, but would absolutely love to!) by you and Yumi just the other day as the two of you rode home on your bikes…and it made me smile.

  11. I absolutely adore the drawing Yumi created for you! I think that it is wonderful that the two of you have the opportunity to ride your bikes together to and from school. That is one sweet memory that you both will always cherish and remember. This post made me think about all of the things my father and I did together when I was a child. Thank you for sharing!

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