Monday, July 6, 2009

Look Ma, no training wheels!

Getting rid of training wheels is a major goal for the boys this summer. The last few summers Teddy has been practicing in the cul-de-sac. He could ride training wheel-less so long as he kept going in a circle--better clockwise than counter-clockwise.

But then Teddy tried to beg off buying a new bike this summer, with protestations of, "I don't want a bike, I'm more of a scooter kinda guy", and even "Why do I have to learn to ride a bigger bike--I can get whereever on my scooter. They even make them Dad's size!"

DH and I locked gazes over this topic, realizing we would have to get scarlet "F"s tattooed on our parental foreheads if this kid graduated elementary school without knowing one of the major skills of childhood. We both shuddered at the thought.

So, a few weeks ago, we stocked up on elbow and knee pads, and bought Teddy a new, taller, bicycle. He was starting to look like a circus clown riding his old one with his knees up to his chin. We did not buy training wheels for the new bike.

DH took Teddy out to the park on Sunday afternoon, and called within 15 minutes telling me to come out and see how he was doing. Barley came along out of curiosity, though he also assured us he had no interest in his bike either. Another "scooter kinda guy". When we tried to tell him that a bicycle was way faster than a scooter, he scoffed at us.

When we got to the park, I could barely see Teddy--he was all the way over on the other side of the park--this little dot riding a flash of gold, around the curve, and now coming closer. Still a bit wobbly on the handbrakes, and he needed his Dad to push him to start off. But he had really gotten 90% of the way there last summer, and just needs some more practice now.

Of course, part of me thinks it is not right that this is coming so easily to him. It seems to me that riding a bike is a skill that should take its pound of flesh, literally, to acquire. No doubt I am just jealous because it took me YEARS and many, many skinned knees, elbows, and sand-scoured palms to master. I was on training wheels an embarrassingly long time -- 4th grade, in fact. Most of my friends had shed their training wheels by 1st or 2nd grade. No one rode scooters back then, so this lack on my part was pretty evident.

Then again, most of my friends had ridden tricycles, and gotten bikes earlier than I did. Having been adopted at age 6, I got my bike in first grade, so I was a few years behind everyone else in my motor skill development. And I can't claim to ever have been particularly coordinated.

Another thing against me was my father was over 6' tall. When he would bend over to hold me up on the bike, it was always tipped a little away from him, so when he finally let go, I was really riding at an 80-degree angle, not 90-degrees straight up. I had to straighten the bike to a true vertical before riding on. The curb had my face all over it.

In fact, it was my friend Billy, across the street, who really taught me. He was my height, and wiry and strong. It was a beautiful spring day as he ran alongside me, holding me upright perfectly straight, encouraging me all the way, and when he let go, I could finally feel that balance point. Pump, pump, pump, and I made it to the end of the block without losing any skin! It was a BIG day. I thought my heart would burst out of my chest I was so happy!

And so was Teddy. Despite his earlier protestations, he was wearing a grin bigger than his face, and couldn't wait to go around again, and again. "Scooter kinda guy" my dupah*!

(*borrowing from my Polish relatives, you can guess the meaning from context)

When Barley tried to race his brother to see if a scooter can keep up with a bicycle, his brother smoked him--a clear country mile ahead of him on the bicycle. Barley is now eagerly looking forward to getting his own new bike. No, we won't be buying training wheels for that one either.

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