I can give you some lousy excuses for why she never learned (unpaved driveway was a tough place to practice; we lived on a busy road at the time), but those don't really explain why my kiddo made it to age nine unable to ride a bike.
She never learned because neither I nor my husband were riding bikes when it was time for her to learn. We had our own slew of excuses and doubts, but the long and the short of it was that if we didn't ride, neither would she.
A nine-year-old needs to know how to bike ride. We had done the poor kid a tremendous disservice.
So this year for her birthday, Abby got a new bike. This gift was met with equal parts elation and trepidation. She wanted so much to hop on and go, but feared the learning process. I don't know about your children (if you've got 'em or maybe if you were one once), but my child occasionally expresses fear with phrases like, "I don't want to learn this," or "I don't need to know this." It wasn't that she couldn't learn. No. She could absolutely learn, but she just didn't feel like it. Go ahead and take that bike right back to the store, why don't you?
It's totally just kids who face fears with denial, right?
We did not return the bike to the store. Now that I had a bike and my husband had pulled his bikes out of storage, we had visions of grand family biking adventures (well, Adventure Husband had grand visions. I had nice, mild-mannered visions.) No more excuses.
We were out on the driveway practicing one afternoon, and both Abby's and my frustration levels were nearing nuclear. I had recently read a great blog post about needing to keep my own volume lower than my kiddo's (sounded great while sipping tea and reading an interesting article; induced the shakes when trying to practice it in my front yard. I so wish I could find this post again right now but I can't.). Finally, when she would neither try pedaling in any serious way while I held her upright nor would she quit, I had to walk away from her.
She muttered some things I am probably better off for not having heard clearly, stomped on her pedals, and proceeded to zip down the driveway without falling over.
I will never forget her look of sheer surprise at her success when she realized what she was doing. She immediately looked at me, eyes wide and mouth rounded in a huge O! When she stopped (a few seconds later), she hopped off the bike, ran to me with her arms spread wide, and screamed "I did it! I did it!" ALL of her anger and frustration evaporated. She was no longer pissed at me or at herself or at the world in general.
What are the lessons in this?
All that psycho-babble about facing our fears head on and recognizing our denial for what it is? Yeah, pretty much spot on.
I had to let her go, she had to let herself go, and then BOOM. Bike rider.
|I love when Google Photos makes panoramas for me, |
especially when the same person shows up in them several times.
We experienced our first mild-mannered biking adventure: this Adventure Family logged five miles on the bike path in Brunswick. It did not matter that we were passed by a jogger when going "up hill" (total elevation gain on the entire path: 34 ft.). What mattered was that Abby's efforts paid off, and we had what will go down in the history books as one of our best family outings ever. No fussing. No arguing. No sighs or eye-rolling. Just accomplishment.
Abby found her Oomph and continues to inspire me to find mine.