This was my third kid and I had never taught anyone how to ride a bike. How had that happened? I don’t remember who taught Mini Me how to ride a bike, but I remember that he was riding, sans training wheels, at age 4, barefoot, and slinging his lightening bolt-paint-job-bicycle in neighbors’ yards up and down the street. The poor Middle Child had to wait until she was 8 or 9 and her MiMa taught her after she had had ENOUGH. MiMa could not believe that the child could not ride a bicycle. The child had a bicycle, helmet, etc. I think that by then, The Baby was like 2 years old, and how in the hell was I going to teach anybody how to ride a damn bicycle? Please answer me that!!!! Plus, at that particular moment in time, I did not give a rats ass who could ride a bike at our house and who could not! I should have cared. I should have taught The Middle Child and I should have gone ahead and taught The Baby at age 2, when it is easiest to learn! But no! I was lazy. I was tired. These three hooligans had worn me out. I wanted nothing to do with teaching them how to do anything at all that required physical movement. Let their father do that. Or their grandmother. I was done.
Fast forward about 8 years. I wanted the whole family to get new bicycles. It was time. Mini Me had his uncle’s old bike at college. The Middle Child’s bike broke and became too small long ago. The Baby’s bicycle was wayyyyy to small. We went to the bike shop that my brother, the cyclist, uses in South Carolina. We were all fitted for bicycles. All except for The Middle Child, because she was in Africa. We will take her back very soon. The Baby needed a men’s XS. Now, this looked HUGE to me. I thought to myself that we would never, in a million years, get this kid riding this bike. Plus, I felt like a complete idiot telling these people who worked there that this almost 5 foot tall ten year old could not actually test-ride this bicycle that we were about to pay a lot of money for. We left with 3 beautiful brand new bicycles, 3 beautiful brand new helmets, and 3 fabulous brand new water bottles.
On Monday, I took The Baby to the school in our neighborhood. They have a field with a track. I googled how to teach a kid to ride a bike. On Monday, we only worked on balance. I had him on a slight incline, with his seat as low as it would go, his feet off of the pedals, just maintaining his balance as he rolled down the incline. On Tuesday, we went back. We did some more balance work, but after rolling down the incline, he would try to put his feet on the pedals. Eventually, he decided that the momentum he gained from the incline was not actually helping him and it would be best if he could start pedaling from a flat surface. I started out holding the back of his seat, but we soon decided that it would be better for me to leave him alone and let him fight it out.
At one point, The Baby got so mad at his bicycle that he threw it down in the soft gray gravel track, walked over to a bench, laid down and cried. It was hot. I knew he was miserable, but I also knew he was on the verge of getting it. After that, he got on his bicycle and rode it about 3/4 around the track, then veered off into the grass, tried to miss a huge puddle, ended up hitting the soccer goal, and fell into the puddle. His sweat pants were soaked. He laid there and cried. I felt terrible. I helped him up and picked up his bike. I looked at him and told him that if he wanted to quit, I understood and would take him home, but if he had anything left, I felt like he had already gotten it, and if he could try riding around the track one more time, I really thought he would feel great about his results. He hung his head, jerked his bicycle away from me, got on it, and took off. I knew that was all it would take. He was so mad at the bike, and mad at himself. That is all it takes sometimes in our family. He rode the entire track. He was so very proud of himself, and so was I.
We went back to the school track on Wednesday. It took him a few minutes to get acclimated, but once he did, we rode circles around each other-literally. That track is in full sun. I decided that the next day, we were going to do something different. I also knew I needed to get him off grass and gravel.
In the morning, I suggested that we go to Brook Run – a local park with a bike trail, playgrounds, skate park, and dog park. When we arrived, The Baby looked at me and told me that this was just too hard and he just was not ready for this yet. I assured him that I had never ridden this bike trail either, and that nobody was perfect-all we could do was try. He relented. We did the whole trail. I think it’s about 3-4 miles! He doesn’t like going uphill, so he probably walked about 15%, but he did GREAT! When we got to the home stretch, I said, “Well, here we are-this is the end!” The Baby looked at me and said, “I can do this because I AM A MAN!” and he took off. I stood there, thinking, well, whatever gets you moving, little guy. I certainly don’t think being a man has a thing to do with it. I do lots of things that some men can’t begin to do…..
When we got to our car, we found someone to take our picture with my phone. He was SO proud of himself, and so was I. I was going to have to come up with something really extravagant for tomorrow!
Friday, we packed our lunches and headed downtown. The belt line looked pretty packed, and The Baby did not want to be surrounded by people–he was scared he was going to run over them. So, we ended up getting a little cranky and had to eat our lunch in the car. That helped us. I found the Piedmont Park parking deck, and we went to Piedmont Park! He loved it! We rode all over the place. We rode over bridges and around curves, up and down hill. We stopped for a break and got a King of Pops popsicle. Both of us chose Orange Creme. When we were riding back to the parking lot, a “real” cyclist, dressed in a whole cycling outfit, rode by us. The Baby looked at him and said, “Hi!” really loudly. The guy looked over and smiled and said, “Hey there!”. I wondered if The Baby was picturing himself in an outfit like that one day…..
When we left, The Baby told me the same thing he had at the end of every biking excursion we had had this week: you are the best mom ever. Thank you so much. I have had so much fun. It brought a tear to my eye several times. I did not drop everything and go ride bikes just so he would give me accolades. I dropped everything and rode bikes because it is what I should have been doing and what I needed to be doing. I feel guilty for not doing it with the other two. Hopefully, once we get The Middle Child her bicycle, I can make up for some of that. Maybe Mini Me will bring his bicycle home and we can all go together.
If you want to know the truth, I never thought that I could teach The Baby how to ride his bike. In my world, that is something that a man does. Oh my God. Did I really just say that???? Don’t worry, I slapped myself back into reality 😉