One of the things Santa brought the kids were new bikes. Both of them desperately needed upgrades and Katie received a stylin’ new bike with 18″ tires and training wheels while William got a flashy red bike with 20″ tires.
Well, turns out that the 20″ tires are just a shade too tall for him right now. He’ll grow into it in a few weeks or months but for right now it’s a tad, er, uncomfortable, when he tries to get on the bike. He can touch the ground with his feet but other parts of him are in contact with the bike. We had to have a couple practice sessions on how to get on the bike and I knew the next major problem was going to occur once we got started even though it hadn’t occurred to William yet. How to dismount when you come to a stop.
In my opinion there are few practical exercises in life like riding a bike that if you stop to consider it, it’s window into what you can expect from life in general. Sometimes you’re going to fall, it’s going to hurt and that’s OK. You could crash in front a bunch of your friends while trying to take your bike off some sweet jumps and look like a complete fool or knock the wind out of yourself so badly that you can’t help but cry. These things happen. It’s about understanding that sometimes things don’t turn out how you want but you don’t give up and you keep trying. I wanted to have this discussion with William but kept it at his level.
Me: “You know William, when you ride a bike sometimes you fall and get hurt, right?”
Me: “And if you do, is it OK to stop and cry?”
Me: “What’s the important thing that we don’t want to do?”
William: “Give up.”
Me: “Right. That doesn’t mean you can’t stop and take a break if you need to or even try another day. But we don’t want to give up. Just keep trying.”
Me: “And what’s the reason we’re doing this anyway?”
William: “To have fun.”
William is an amazing young boy who is very bright, observant, and sensitive. We’ve had discussions like the one above a time or two before and he really does get it for being almost 7. I just know that being almost 7 we’re going to have a couple of bumps today on the way to the park. With the parenting talk out of the way it’s time to go have fun. During this discussion Katie has been packing her front bike pouch with the essentials for any bike ride, Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake and 2 bottles of nail polish and she’s ready to get going.
I load up a small bag with some water, band-aids, camera and jackets in case they get cold and we’re off. Since Katie has training wheels she has the lecture that she’s allowed to go out ahead of us as long as she stays in sight and on the sidewalk. She listens extremely well which is good since I’m paying closer attention to William.
Shannon already taught William how to ride his bike a long time ago and he does it very well. It’s the new bike with the new height that’s an issue. We work together to get him mounted and he’s off. Knowing that the first stop is going to be somewhat painful depending on how he dismounts I literally run next to him the entire time. We break the trip to the park in small parts that allow Katie to go far ahead while staying in sight but let’s William practice riding.
Each time he rides well but when he tries to dismount but doesn’t do it as well as he’d like. He’s harder on himself than anyone and several times when I give him honest (not parentally-baised) praise he’s not listening. At one point when he came to a stop he landed on both feet and I said how great he did he was upset. I just let him have his feelings and we move onto the park.
So at the park they immediately head to the monkey-bars and some kind of spinning circle device. I have no idea how it’s supposed to be used but they figure out that if one starts and drifts to the bottom then the other can jump on and they can spin. The bearings of this thing squeak badly and I make a mental note to pack WD-40 for next time so they can really get some velocity out of this thing.
After this they move to the monkey-bars. They both easily handle the side-to-side method but I ask them if they can do the harder way of swinging with your arms in front of you. Both tell me “No” but I tell them, “I bet you can. “ I show them by trying myself but don’t do that well. Just seeing me try seems to inspire them but in an uncommon but not unheard turn of events William decides to try first. Katie didn’t want to do it and firmly tells me so.
Me: “Katie, do you want to try and go across the monkey-bars the new way?”
Katie: “No, I can’t do it.”
Me: “Katie, we’re not supposed to say “can’t.” You haven’t tried it yet.”
Katie: “No, I don’t want to do it.”
Me: “OK, but I know that you can do it if you tried.”
Now while William was having some problems finding his confidence on his new bike none of that was present here. I stayed next to him in case he needed to drop but he didn’t. The first time through he made it and then I was able to get a video of his second time through.
Once Katie sees this she wants to try. She insisted that I had to hold her waist as she went through, which I did. She made it halfway and needed to drop down into my arms. She took about 20 seconds and then said, “I’m ready.” She then completed the other half of the monkey-bars.
At this point I think she’s done but then she immediately wants to go again and this time insists I don’t hold her. I think she’ll be able to do it so I get down at the other end and get the camera ready. I end up getting some great video of a girl who just turned 5 in August going through the monkey-bars.
So now William has conquered the monkey-bars and is ready to play a game. He wants to make up some kind of game and we come up with a game together. We end up calling it “Treasure Hunter” but that’s a post for another time.
It’s getting close to 5 and we need to head back because it’s going to get cold rapidly, they’re already tired and I need to get dinner going. So we head back and I stay close to William as he tries his bike again. The break has given him time to build up his confidence and when we leave the park via a twisty road I ask him if he wants to walk it out or ride it out. He says, “Ride it out.” (that’s my boy!) and so off he goes. Of course the poor boy doesn’t have luck on his side and he hits the only thing possible in the entire path.
The park department has this post here because the cement path is pretty wide and some moron in a 4×4 could go tearing through there. But also they need to make sure that young boys on bikes can hit it and then knock the wind out of themselves and possible damage the family jewels as they come to an abrupt stop.
Well, he handles this setback better than I thought he would and we spend just a few minutes setting on Daddy’s lap as we let the pain ease. He was a little mad at me because when I saw this coming and tried to stop him he thought I was laughing at him. I tried to explain I wasn’t laughing but was warning him. Oh well. We get one more ride in and then most of the way back is me pushing the bike and him walking next to me talking about the multiple injuries he’s sustained and how this is the worse day ever. I just agree with him and don’t dispute it. “Yes, that does sound like it hurt.” “Yes, I can see how that would bother you.”
He’s eventually worked through his feelings enough that when we turn the last corner and can see our house I ask him, “Do you want to walk it home or ride it home?”
William: “I want to ride it home.”
Me: “That sounds like a good idea. You know you might make it home OK or you might fall down and get hurt again.”
William: “I know.”
Me: “What are you going to do if you get hurt?”
William: “I’ll be sad again.”
Me: “Well, it’s OK to feel sad and if you get hurt I’ll pick you up. So let’s go.”
And we make it home with him earning a 5.5 score on the dismount in the front yard. He was sad for a little bit but it wasn’t anything major. All in all it was a good time.