It's a rite of passage in America....learning to ride a bike. Kids start out on tricycles or bikes with training wheels and "pretend" ride. But the true test comes when they hit the road on two wheels. It's instant big-kid status! There is applause and cheering and high-fiving all around.
And well there should be. Learning to ride a bike is no picnic, as any parent with unexplained lower back pain can tell you.
In our house, the transition to two wheels begins with a pep talk. And lots of convincing to "just try it" without the training wheels.
She tried it. And the training wheels went back on the next day.
A few months later, she tried it again. And the training wheels went back on the next day.
We repeated this cycle three or four times, until something finally clicked. This week my four year old finally decided to give two wheels the "old college try." She had been asking me for days to hold her up and push her while she practiced. Uh oh. No way. I didn't want anything to do with that bad habit. I imagined myself bent over, pushing this child around the yard until Halloween, when I wouldn't need more than a vest and a nose wart to look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
"You need to practice on your own" I told her. "If I hold you up, you'll never learn to do it by yourself."
She is a pretty persistent little thing, so she kept practicing. And she also kept asking. "Please, can you just hold the bike right here and then I will pedal?" I kept brushing her off with pep talks about working hard and not giving up.
Finally today, when the temperature dropped into the mid 90's and I had an extra burst of energy, I gave in. I leaned over, grabbed the back of that bicycle seat and started walking alongside her as she pedaled. Here's the funny part. As I was pushing/holding the back of her bike I realized I wasn't doing any work. She was balanced just fine on her own. She didn't need my help!! But for whatever reason, that was the turning point. She got it. It clicked.
I let go and watched her pedal away, unassisted.
We had some fits and starts, trial and error. She took a pretty good fall, cried, and got right back on that bike. Really, nothing makes a mom more proud than watching your kid get up and try again. Am I right?
I wish you could have seen her. The smile on her face was a mile wide. She screamed and cheered for herself every time she pedaled more than twice without putting her foot on the ground. "Mommy did you see that? I'm doing it! I"M DOING IT!!" I wanted to run and grab the video camera but I was frozen in place watching my girl conquer this new skill. It was one of those life moments that you just have to be present for, without getting distracted by video angles. So all I have to share with you is the story of this monumental feat.
And this proud, priceless smile.