One of the fun parts about parenting is seeing your kids “get” something. From reading to tying shoes to...whatever, that look they get in their eyes once they realize that they can do something is inspirational. And sometimes, our kids know well before we do that they’re ready to do stuff. We’re still worrying about the lesson, and they’re ready for the execution.
Such was my life this past weekend when my oldest boy—now 6—finally got his wish for me to take the training wheels off his bike and within 15 minutes, he was riding like the wind. But how did we get here? Well as many say, the journey can be the destination. So let’s journey.
This past summer, one of my goals was actually to get both of my bigger boys (the 6-year-old and his younger brother who is 5) riding their bikes without training wheels. And as they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. And it’s not that I was failing as an instructor; it’s just that I wasn’t doing much instructing. It’s insane how fast the summer flew by, and I hadn’t really done much to get my boys to the internal goal that I set. By my count, they’d only ridden their bikes a handful of times in a purposeful way and a few other times just messing around in the back yard.
And then as is usually the case when something needs to happen, my sons went to their godmother’s house for the day and when I picked them up, the oldest wanted to show me the progress he had made on his god-brother’s bike. His god-brother—who just turned 6, mind you—is a bike-riding master. While my son was trying to show me he had developed some balance, his god-brother was out here doing tricks, taking his hands off the handlebars, etc. He was already where my son wanted to be, by leaps and bounds. Anywho, my son wanted to show me what he had been practicing and I was told that for the last 30 or so minutes he had been working to try to ride the bike. He showed me a few times how he was able to keep his balance for a few seconds before having to put his feet down to catch himself.
As soon as we got in the car he immediately started asking if we could take the training wheels off of his bike; this was a Sunday. Now, I fully intended to get him out on his bike during that week; that following Saturday his god-brother was having his 6th birthday party at a bike park so we did want him to be able to ride a bike and most importantly HE wanted to be able to ride his bike...sans training wheels.
Let’s take a quick sidebar so I can tell you something about my son. When he gets an idea in his head, he is unable to let it go. It dominates his thinking at all times and he’s laser focused on it. He asks about it incessantly, no matter how many times we tell him to stop. Whether it’s a toy he really wants, a task he wants to complete or a show he just needs to see. For instance, his older sister who is 12 is still faster than him. He doesn’t care that he can beat every other kid in a foot race, the fact that he cannot beat her is all he cares about. Every time he sees her he challenges her to a race. Every. Time. And I think he will until he beats her, honestly, and the way he’s going, he’s going to get there. He’s part of a tennis class and while the other kids spend a ton of time chit chatting, he is intent on being able to hit the tennis ball. The tasks of tennis matter to him because he wants to be not only good at it, but better than everybody else. His determination is aspirational, even if it means that he’s going to bug us about this one specific thing every five minutes. For the record, I’m not saying this as a complaint either; I think this is largely while he will succeed at things in life; if he wants to be good at something, he can’t stop thinking about it until he is.
Back to the lecture at hand. For most of the week, we never actually got an opportunity for him to ride his bike. But on that next Friday when he got out of school, I told him I’d take the training wheels off and work with him. I was concerned that this wasn’t going to go well. What a folly on my part.
One thing I did forget that I think is essential to this story: my son was a MONSTER on the little Strider balance bikes. A day after we got him that thing he was speeding around, gliding with reckless abandon. He “got” it immediately. This is important.
I took him outside with his helmet and pads and took the training wheels off, and started holding onto the bike. For probably the first 10 minutes I tried that method of holding him up while he tried to get his balance and ride. But one time I noticed something, while going down the slight incline on my sidewalk, he more or less balanced himself like he had on the balance bike he was so good at and glided. So I told him we were going to repeat that three times and see if he could glide with some balance. And he did, with flawless precision. On time four, I said, “Son...just start pedaling.” And he did and that was all she wrote. From that moment on he was riding his bike just fine as if he was born doing it.
Which, of course, immediately made me think he could have been doing that all summer. If only I had thought to do it then. He wanted to ride his bike but he wanted to RIDE it, not just piddle along with training wheels. He was ready before I knew he was ready...but he knew it. And it taught me a valuable lesson about meeting my son where he is since he has excelled at literally every single physical activity he partakes of: when he feels like he’s ready, maybe I should just see. And I think that’s how all parents get with their kids. I do think it helps that my son is just gifted, biased perspective or not. I’ll do better listening to him because if I’m honest, he impresses me so much with his gifts I know he’s going to excel in ways I never could. I’ll keep it in mind that just because I think he might not be ready doesn’t mean he isn’t. Sometimes you have to take the training wheels off and just...try.
As for now, he’s out here riding like he’s preparing to take Nigel Sylvester’s spot. And I hope he does, because he also wants to skateboard and that one truly scares the life out of me. But maybe he’s going to be just fine. He has been so far. Now, I just have to work on the other kids but I feel more prepared and comfortable so we can call win.