I know i’m not the first person to compare riding a bike to life in general, but by golly i’ll be the latest!
A few weeks ago (on a Tuesday), my 6 year old daughter Presley expressed interest in wanting to learn to ride her bike without the training wheels. So i dug it out of the shed (where it had gathered dust over the winter) and we cleaned it off and dusted all the cobwebs out of her Dora the Explorer helmet. Took it to get air in the tires, and we’re ready to give it a shot.
She hops onto the bike, ready to go. Just that little act itself makes me proud. When youre that little, a bike must seem pretty imposing. I mean, youre up there sitting on it, your feet dangling, and the ground looks far away from you. It probably seems that the bicycles main goal in life is to throw you on the ground and then repeatedly run over you. Which is why you’ll never get me on a horse. But anyway.
We slowly make our way to NTTs (nana tata tios/her great grandparents house) which is a little under a mile away. I’m holding on to her seat guiding her along, and shes super wobbly. Relax, i tell her. Just concentrate on pedaling right now. Let go, daddy, she tells me. Noooo way. So finally we get to NTTs, turn around and head back. She’s still wobbly, still leaning to the side. You can let go, daddy. Monkey, I do that and youre going straight down to the pavement and thatll be the end of this little venture. Finally we make it home, and my back is killing me. I think we were both a little proud but also a little frustrated. So I tell her “our goal, sis, is to have you riding this thing by yourself by Friday” “daddy, whats a goal?” “umm. its when uh, you tell yourself that youre going to do something, no matter how hard it seems, and you do it” “oh”.
The next day, Wednesday, we couldnt practice because of a family function.
Thursday I get off late from work so we dont have much daylight to work with. We head back to NTTs again. Still not much control, not much balance. We get there and her Tio Pete drops some knowledge: “you should practice on the grass, mija, thats what i did when i was a kid”. Dangit, why didnt i think of that? So i push her back and forth on the lawn and she rides by herself for a few yards at a time. Did it for about 20 minutes. Heading back to the house, her confidence is up. Let go, Dad. I can do it. Not quite yet, sis. We get home, practice a few more minutes on the grass, and we call it a day. I’m really hoping we get this down tomorrow, and im sure shes hoping the same thing.
Now its Friday and i have the day off from work. Presley gets home from school and of course is eager to ride. So i take her out front to the street and i guide her back and forth. And i can feel her getting it. Shes wobbling less, and leaning less. So i let go for a couple seconds at a time, always hovering close by so i can catch her if things look shaky. Finally i get go, hover, but shes riding straight and true. She keeps going. I have to jog to keep up. Did you let go, Daddy? Dont worry about what im doing, monkey, just keep pedaling and concentrate on what youre doing. Remember, you make the bike do what you want it to do. You make it go where you want it to go. Youre in control. By this time i’m channeling my inner Yoda/Mr Miagi. Do or do not, there is no try. Wax on, wax off.
Anyway, finally i make her stop and turn her around to show her how far she went. You werent holding me? Nope, sis, thats all you. I felt like thumping my chest like a crazed gorilla, howling like a lonesome wolf! i was so stinking proud of her! I’ll never hit a walk off home run or make a game winning 3, but this felt like the next best thing, if not better. And the look of amazement and pride on her face was priceless. She rode back to the house, with me jogging behind her. Goal accomplished.
The next day, after more practicing, I went to the shed again to dig out my Schwinn. Ok, sis, I’m going to ride next to you. Youre on your own if you get wobbly, ok? Ok, daddy, lets go to Fosters! So we ride to Fosters and have a victory milkshake. On the ride back home, it happened. Her first major spill.
Sad thing is, i could see it coming. i could see she was going too fast, and that the turn she was going to have to make was too sharp, and the dip that was going to throw a kink in the whole maneuver. Too far away to catch her, it happened in slow motion. She went down. Thank you, Dora, for protecting her head. I went to her, untangled her from her bike and picked her up. Of course shes crying, and looking at her skinned knee and elbow. Youre ok, sis. She cries “is it bleeding? it feels like its dripping blood!” No, sis, youre fine, just took some skin off. Come on, hop back on and lets get you home and clean you up. “I dont wanna ride my bike anymore!” Come on, Pres, we’ll be there in 2 minutes. “uh uh, it hurts!” ok, sis. So we walk our bikes home, and i try to comfort her on the way. It was bound to happen sis, youre lucky you didnt get hurt worse. some kids break bones, or land on their face! she didnt want to hear it. We get home and she gets a little TLC from mommy and she seems ok. Still, im wondering if the bikes going back in the shed for the year,
But the next day she wanted to ride again. And we’ve gone everyday since. Me riding next to her. Her with a proud, big girl look on her face, and me beyond nervous with my head on a swivel looking for potential hazards.
And thats life.
I know I wont be always be able to hold on to the back of her seat, guiding her. I know she’ll want me to let go before i feel that she’s ready.
Or before i feel that I’M ready.
I know i wont be able to hover around her in case she gets wobbly. I’ll be able to be close by, if i’m lucky, and maybe point out that pothole she should avoid. Maybe tell her to slow down around that curve, and maybe keep her on the right side of the road. But thats it. She’ll be on her own bike, with only her being able to control it.
She’ll have her own goals she sets for herself. Some she’ll accomplish, some she wont. She’ll make some good decisions, and some great choices. But she’ll also make dumb decisions and some bad, head scratching choices.
But I will ALWAYS be there to pick her up again.