Unexpectedly, both of my children, ages 6 and 5, learned to ride their bikes without training wheels over the weekend. I was not looking forward to this endeavor, envisioning skinned knees and whines of “I can’t do it!” However, I was determined to dedicate four days to teaching them how to ride a bike. If it didn’t work, we would go back to training wheels.
In reality, it actually took far less time and involved far less headaches than I imagined.
Thursday: My son hopped on his bike and took off. Really. I held the back of his bike for a couple of minutes while he worked out his balance, and then he was racing around the driveway before I knew it.
My daughter, well, she lived up to the whining and injuries that I had feared. Luckily, injuries were minor, but I decided we would most likely be going back to training wheels after the weekend.
Friday: My daughter had other ideas, though. It is amazing what a little sibling rivalry can do. When she saw all of the attention that her brother was getting from me and my husband, she decided to keep trying. When I wasn’t shouting out directions and micromanaging the process, she scooted around the driveway with her feet, pedaled once or twice, and then finally pedaled the length of the driveway.
Sunday: They mastered braking and turning without stopping, which allowed them to loop the driveway over … and over … and over. We live on top of a steep hill, so there are limited safe biking areas. I started to suspect that confining them to the driveway was going to be difficult.
As I sat on the steps and responded to their chorus of “Mom, look at me!” I marveled at how quickly they learned this new skill. It reminded me of when they learned to walk. One day they were wobbling around using a push toy, and then it seemed like the next day they were racing across the living room.
On Tuesday, I decided to take them to park with a long walking/riding loop to let them really test out their new skills.
Lately, trips to parks involve me walking laps around the playground while the kids play on their own. I love to multitask, so this is perfect; I get my exercise for the day while they have fun. I keep an eye on them, of course, and I’m never far away. Occasionally, I need to intervene, but they prefer to play on their own or with the gaggle of other children.
There has been some amount of freedom in this for me. I no longer have to assist my daughter up the ladder or hover at the bottom of the slide to cheer on my son. From a distance, I can still watch their skinny legs pumping up and down making the swing go higher and higher.
Immediately upon arriving at the park, I realized how bikes were going to change everything. I couldn’t relax, and in fact my stomach was clenched the ENTIRE time. So much pavement. So many different ways to get injured. Suddenly, bikes seemed dangerous. Did I strap on their helmets tight enough? Why didn’t I buy knee pads? Elbow pads? Shin guards? Bubble wrap?
I found myself jogging besides them and loudly shouting various over-protective statements: Slow down! Come back! You’re going to fast! Wait for me!
Of course, there was a spill. My daughter tried to turn too quickly and toppled over. She landed on her handlebars, and there were tears and cries for “Mama.” (This melts my heart. How long will she still call for “Mama” when she falls? How long will my arms be the best medicine?) I cuddled and kissed her, told her to make wider turns, and then put her right back on that bike.
This was harder for me than her. She immediately started pedaling away.
They tolerated my hovering and over-protection for a bit, but soon enough my son was flying down a hill yelling loudly, “This is what I like, Mom! Super-faaaaaast!” How could I not smile at that?
My daughter quickly followed, and I was left on the sidelines to wave and snap pictures. My stomach gradually unclenched, and I started to let them go a little farther, a little faster. As I listened to their uninhibited laughter, I simply enjoyed the moment, a moment of pure childhood joy.