It’s almost like a rite of passage as a parent to teach your kid how to ride a bike. As adults, we sometimes take for granted the complexity of actually learning how to do it. You have to be able to get on the bike without knocking it over, first of all. Then once your up, the only way you can keep your balance is to well, ride it.
Kids have a funny way of learning things. You tell them “Don’t put that in your mouth yet, it’s too hot.” What do they do? Put it in their mouth before blowing on it to cool it down. You tell them “Make sure you have all your homework done and put back in your backpack before bed.” What do they do? They come home with a note (in my children’s case, a “Sad Scholar” report noting that your child actually did NOT remember to either do their homework, or they just left it on the desk the night before).
I’m not sure of the exact age I was when I learned to ride a bike. However, I do remember the exact time I rode it all by myself. Growing up, we had a garage that was separate from our house. We had a fairly long gravel driveway mired in weeds and dandelions. I don’t remember if it was my mom or my dad that was my guardian angel holding on to the back of my seat and then letting go of it as I made my way down our long driveway. I do remember “feeling” as if I was riding it on my own. When I realized I really was doing it on my own, it was about the happiest emotion a young kid could feel. I felt the wind whipping through my hair, I could see the small grapevine next to our driveway out of the corner of my eye, and I was doing it! Then, I promptly crashed into the front of our garage door.
So my oldest daughter is ten. She just learned to ride her bike about a year and a half ago. I felt as if she could have ridden it sooner, had I been more proactive about it. When I finally got around to it, and actually spent some real quality time with her, the bike, and the pavement, it was one of the happiest moments a parent could feel. I remember quietly letting go of her seat and calmly jogging next to her (as if I were still holding on to her). I could see the twinkle in her eyes without even looking at them as she finally was doing it all on her very own. Of course I was nervous about her running into something, so we practiced out in the open street. Luckily, to this day, she’s never ran into our garage door.
Yesterday, my seven year old came running through the front door excitedly asking me to come outside because she wanted to show me something on her bike. I still had the remote to the TV and the remote to the Wii in my hand as I ran out after her. I felt pretty bad, considering my kids were actually being the active ones playing outside, while I was inside playing tennis on the Wii. In keeping with the time-honored tradition of honing our bicycle skills at a young age, I obliged her and started running beside her. I watched her smile as big as she could as I jogged beside her down the block.
Although she never quite got the hang of it yesterday, I’m pretty sure she’ll get it pretty darn soon. It looks like it’s time to take the training wheels off…