As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, my youngest daughter is the cautious type. I have never had to worry about this child wandering off…in any unfamiliar environment she clings to me like Velcro. She’s disinclined to attempt anything that might cause her discomfort, from learning new physical skills to trying new foods. That’s how she got to be 7½ without learning to ride a bike.
Last summer I tried to teach her. She was so fearful she could barely sit on her little pink Barbie bike without panicking, even with training wheels on it. So I let it go.
Recently, though, she’s become fairly skilled at riding a scooter. Since that’s a balance trick not unlike staying up on a bike, I judged her ready. And we had beautiful weather for the long weekend. The time had come.
I admit I applied a little pressure to talk her into it. “Other kids your age have been riding bikes for a year or two already,” I pointed out. “And Tigger’s going on a bike trip with her class. If your class goes on a bike trip next year and you haven’t learned to ride, you won’t be able to go.”
It worked. She decided to try.
She’s outgrown the little pink Barbie bike, so we dusted off Tigger’s outgrown big kid bike and pumped up the tires. (Tig rides a women’s bike now, that’s how big she is. Oy.) I figured that with any skill involving wheels the most important thing is to know how to fall. Or in this case, how to catch herself.
So we practiced just standing there with her butt on the seat and one foot on the ground. Then we practiced with the other foot. Next we moved a short way (with me holding the bike) and she practiced braking and putting a foot down to stop. Little Bit felt a lot better once she knew she wasn’t necessarily going to go crashing to the ground if she couldn’t keep the bike up. That was yesterday.
This morning I ran along holding the back of the seat while she (sort of) steered. That was exhausting. This afternoon I told her she was on her own. She would never get the balance trick down if I held on and righted her.
She pushed off, traveled a few inches, and put her foot down. Repeat. Again and again. Finally, almost by accident, she managed a full revolution of the pedals. Repeat. An hour later she could ride a few wobbly feet. An hour after that she was cruising circles around the cul de sac. Just like that.
I’m so proud of that kid (you can probably tell). It was hard for her. She was scared. She did it anyway. She triumphed!
Meanwhile, Tigger has been given permission to leave the cul de sac and ride around the neighborhood a bit. It is perhaps a sad indication of how we overprotect kids these days that she had to get to 11 years old before she could do this. She returns exhilarated with the freedom and the power.
You go, girls.