My Kid Rode A Bike For The First Time (Without The Training Wheels)
I love it when I teach my kids to learn a new skill.
I’m a passionate father. I just love teaching my kids new skills. I love it when the light goes on over their heads and then my kids run with a new skill. Parenting is all about teaching our kids the skills they need not just to live, but to find happiness and contentment. That is what happened yet again, yesterday.
For more than a couple years, my daughters (6 and 4 years old) have known how to ride a bike with training wheels. I’ve suggested numerous times that they try riding without training wheels, but they demonstrated mighty resistance at the suggestion. So I waited. I decided to just not say anything more about it and let them decide when they’re ready.
The day before yesterday, one of the bikes had a flat. I tried pumping more air into it, but every pump of air into the tire resulted in a hiss of air bleeding out. We needed a new innertube for that bike. And that meant that I could not complete repairs until we got a new innertube. And that meant that only one kid had a working bike until repairs were made.
Yesterday, the kids wanted to visit friends and go to the park. So we went out. We walked wherever we went because there was only one working bike. We walked to one house, but no one was home. We walked to another, and they were home, and they were right next to the park. So we went to the park.
When we got to the park, kids were running around, playing on the jungle gym and riding bikes. Without training wheels. So I didn’t give it much thought and let it go. I was just the chaperone and I would facilitate when needed.
While I was there, I noticed a little boy and her mom there. The boy noticed me, too. The jungle gyms were surrounded by softwood chips and a concrete curb. The boy was having some difficulty stepping down into the wood chips. So I modeled how to do it. I put one foot down, slowly so he could see what I was doing, then I brought the other foot down. Then he did the same thing. And his mom expressed some surprise at me, for she had tried many times before to teach him how to make that transition from grass to wood chips.
Then I saw my elder daughter had seized upon an unused bike. The bike had no training wheels and she was trying to figure out how to ride it. This seemed like a good time to teach her how to finally ride without the training wheels. She had been asking me to raise the training wheels on her own bike but never had the nerve to ask me to remove them. It seemed that necessity appeared at the right time and the right place.
So I set her up on the bike to assist. I held onto one arm for her and told her to pedal the bike and roll with it. As she gathered speed, I let her go. And she kept going until she ran into the end of the concrete and into the grass. But that was her first taste of riding a bike without training wheels and I could see that she wanted more.
I kept at it with her. She needed to know how to get started. “You put one foot on the ground and one foot on a pedal. Then you use the foot on the ground to push forward to launch, and the other foot pedals…” Eventually, she had figured out how to launch herself. Soon enough, she was riding all over, rolling in circles upon a concrete pad, stopping, starting, rolling again.
All of this was happening while her younger sister looked on. The sun had set and it was getting late. It was time to go home. And my younger daughter was negotiating for more time. I could see how strong the urge was within her to do what her sister did. She wanted a taste of that feeling of gliding on a bike without training wheels. She wanted to be able to do what her sister could do.
On the way home, the elder daughter walked fast with satisfaction while the younger daughter resisted going home. I could see it in her eyes and her body that she felt she was being denied a chance to learn how to ride. I made many assurances that she would have another chance tomorrow. Tomorrow seems such a foreign concept to little kids, for they are experts at living in the moment.
While my wife prepared my younger daughter for bathing, she cried so. But once in the soothing warm water of the bath, she was able to let it go.
Upon bedtime, I told my older daughter to imagine riding a bike, for that is a great way to practice. The brain doesn’t know the difference between dreaming and reality, and I know that making an active effort to imagine something is almost as good as physical practice. We imagine everything we’re going to do before we do it. My elder daughter assured me that she already knew how to ride a bike and that she didn’t need to use her imagination, but I was pretty sure she would be dreaming about it.
So this morning, once there is enough light, I will take the training wheels off the working bike so that my elder daughter doesn’t go back to training wheels. I will go to work knowing that both my daughters will be riding, practicing, with the elder teaching the younger how to ride. I would not be surprised if both of them know how to ride before the day is over.
This is one of the great joys of parenting. Just seeing them take an idea, with me to model the skill and assist in learning the skill, that’s something that people are hardwired to do. I know that I got a good rush of dopamine or something like that because I was naturally high last night. I just loved that feeling of teaching a skill to my kids and then watching them roll with it.