It’s Like Learning How to Not Kill Your Child as She Learns to Ride a Bike

On Wednesday, I posted the following on Twitter:

Off to bang my head against the wall a.k.a. once again attempt to teach 5-yr-old Hadley to ride her bike.

I was only kind of joking. My husband Jamie and I tried to teach her last summer but to no avail. To be fair, it was a half-hearted attempt and we kept giving up out of frustration.

Last week, I decided this is The Summer of No Return.

All of her friends can ride on two wheels. In fact, many who are her same age have been doing it for a couple of years. I jokingly call one of our neighborhood families “athletic freaks of nature” because their boys were careening down the block at age 2.

Of course, they also couldn’t stop and could be heard howling “HELLLLLLLLP!”

With an emphasis on the first few letters.

I don’t remember learning to ride my bike. I guess I always assumed when I taught my children, it would be a bonding experience. In all my infinite bike wisdom, I would instruct them accordingly, then run along behind them as I guided their path. After a few failed attempts, I would release them and they would soar away as I sang out, “Fly little bird, fly!”

Instead, my experience has been “YOU’RE BEING ABSURD. YOU WON’T DIE!”

My daughter Hadley is athletic and normally fearless. She brazenly confronts most situations but learning to ride a bike is not one of them. Already at 5 years old, our relationship is a complicated one. We’re a lot alike–both the good and bad. She’s a spirited firecracker like me but also shares my lack of patience. It’s only a matter of time before one of us will eventually melt down.

With Bike Riding 101, we both did.

“I can’t do it. It’s too hard,” she blubbered.
I instantly snapped back at her, “Of course you can! Don’t ever say ‘can’t.’”

As I looked at her dejected, frustrated face, I realized I had to change my approach.

“If you don’t think you can do it, you won’t. But if you tell yourself you can, you will.” I lovingly proceeded to expound upon the intricacies of sports psychology. Most was lost on her except for my key message.

“Hadley, I want you to shout out, “‘I THINK I CAN!’”

The Little Engine That Could ain’t the only one who can do positive affirmation.

She was tentative at first but each time she bellowed it, she started believing. And the more she started believing it, the more she started doing it. She progressed from biking a few feet to 50 feet. I sprinted beside her the entire time.

When we arrived back to the car, I wheezed, “Now, I want you to shout in your loudest voice, “I DID IT!”

“I DID DO IT,” she jubilantly squealed.

At that very moment, her 3-year-old brother slowly hobbled up beside us on her old bike, lost his balance and smashed into the car like a mosquito on the windshield.

One out of two kids ain’t bad.

Other Posts