My husband and I have been kind of slackers in the whole “let’s teach the kids to ride a bike” department of parenting. If it were a subject in the school of parenting, we’d be failing.
We actually started out well-intentioned. We had tricycles for Sean when he was young, and bought him his first 2-wheeler when he was 5.
He was excited at first, but the shine wore off quickly, and the bike was soon forgotten. There were various starts and stops. My husband would get him riding for jogs at a time on the sidewalk, but Sean never wanted to be doing it for more than just a few minutes at a time, and the bike would get put away again.
At one point, when the bike was growing too small for his ever-lengthening limbs, my father decided it was time to get him on that bike, so he took him out on it and got him going properly. Finally with Dad and Grampy’s efforts successful, he could ride the bike that he could no longer fit.
And so the bike was left alone. (I’m beginning to feel like this story sounds hauntingly like The Giving Tree, but alas, it isn’t.)
As the kids got older, at different points of time, we thought to ourselves that we should get them bikes. We didn’t want to get Grace one and have her ride and be more successful than Sean, which is a possibility because she’s so determined, so we put it off. We decided to get Sean a bigger one and let Gracie use the smaller one. We even went to a bike store and looked around, but for one reason or another, didn’t come home with one.
When Christmas came around last year, we thought about bikes again, but decided on other types of wheels the girls had been asking for: roller skates. The girls got skates and Sean got a skateboard. The girls (especially Gracie) love to skate. Sean has used his skateboard exactly three times.
So today, Gracie asked me if she could play outside “on some sort of vehicle. You know, like on roller skates or something else that has wheels,” she said. “Sure,” I said. So, she got her shoes on, and put on her knee pads, elbow pads, and helmet. This confused me. “Why aren’t you putting your skates on?” I asked her.
“Because I’m not going roller skating,” she said.
I was confused.
“Then what are you doing, exactly?”
“I’m going to ride a BIKE!” she exclaimed, very excitedly. I was a bit puzzled. As far as I knew, we didn’t have a bike she could use. The only one I was even aware we still had was Sean’s 5-year-old bike that had been sitting outside the garage for months. Surely she couldn’t mean that one…
“We don’t have a bike, Gracie.”
“Yes we do, Momma. I’m going to ride Sean’s blue bike. It’s next to the garage.”
I should know this about my daughter. She doesn’t have much fear when it comes to physical things. She loves to try new things. When she was 18 months old, I’d walk into the kitchen and find her sitting in the middle of the table, pouring out all the salt. She’d climb on anything she could. This was all new to me, since Sean was always so cautious. She never stood still, managing to roll off the changing table at 8.5 months in the one second I turned away to comfort her tearful brother, and took her first steps with that great big cast on her little tiny arm.
I knew at some point I’d have to put her in gymnastics, because of her affinity for climbing and swinging on things.
So, when she put those pads on and decided to ride a bike, I wasn’t really surprised.
Well, I decided, it’s worth a shot. I brushed off the cobwebs and took a good look at it. It wasn’t in the best shape. It was a little rusty. It was a little dusty. But it had a flat tire, which couldn’t be good. I called my husband to ask where the tire pump is and attempted to pump it, but I only got it filled partway. There must be a leak. Or they’re just old and weak. So, I told her we could try, but that it really wasn’t a great idea to try it with a flattish tire.
I took her down the driveway to the sidewalk and held onto the seat and the handlebars for a bit while she pedaled. If the bike had proper tires, I would have let go, but I just didn’t feel like it was right to let her try to ride on a bike in that shape.
She got her first feel of the bike and got her first taste of what riding might feel like, and now she can’t WAIT to get a REAL bike with real tires so she can REALLY ride down the street on her own. And if I know my girl, it’s not going to take her very long at all. Which means we’ll need to get a bike for Sean, and Maddie, and Mommy and Daddy, and maybe we can all go for a ride.