Three boys on three bikes

by DaniGirl on September 10, 2012 · 6 comments

in Ah, me boys,Mothering without a licence

For a while, it felt like our dirty little secret. Somehow, we’d managed to avoid getting my middlest son up on two wheels even though he’s now in the third grade, and I took it as an entirely personal parenting failure.

It wasn’t for lack of trying. We’d been encouraging him to get up on two wheels for years, but he was anxious and resistant and I never felt it was worthwhile to push him. I didn’t want to turn it into a power struggle or a thing for him, so we just kind of let it drift. Last summer we scoured the city for an appropriately-sized bike with training wheels on it (try finding a bike with training wheels for a 60 lbs kid some time!) and then removed the training wheels within a month. The boy was stressed every time we tried to get him rolling, though, and had a tumble or two and lost interest.

Every couple of weeks, we’d go back to it and try again with different approaches. For a while, I told him to just scooch around with his feet on the ground to get the feel of balancing on the bike, but he kept banging his shins on the pedals. It was turning in to a big deal, and I chose not to stress him out over something so simple, especially considering he was completely happy to putter around on a scooter instead. It doesn’t help that for living on an island, there sure are a lot of hills around our place. (I suppose the fact that the nearest intersection is called Hilltop should have given it away?) Between the death-defying slope of the driveway and the fact that the road slopes rather alarmingly after a couple dozen meters in either direction (let alone the blind curve just up the street), we never had a lot of room for him to practice without supervision.

But it bothered me. I’d see other kids riding their bikes and feel a pang of guilty regret. A boy in the second grade should be able to ride a bike, no? So when spring broke this summer, I was filled with new resolve and a reservoir of patience. This year, we’d get him up on two wheels. And that’s when his new bike broke. Something in the gears jammed up and the pedals wouldn’t turn. And in the way it sometimes happens with busy families, getting it fixed slid right off the priority list.

Still, the idea that he was not yet able to ride a two-wheeler bothered me. My eldest boy and I started taking bike rides together this summer, and while I was able to justify it as a priviledge for an older child, I still felt guilty. My middle boy did not seem particularly disturbed, probably because he’s a lot less inclined to adventure and activity than his older brother anyway. But with a littlest brother graduating from a tricycle to a two-wheeler with training wheels, I saw trouble brewing on the horizon.

All that to say, I was worried in a kind of distracted way about the fact that my boy had reached the ripe old age of eight without being able to ride his bike without training wheels. I’d worried about the other boys in other late-blooming ways, but was able to reassure myself that the youngest would not, in fact, still be gently sucking his soother as he spent his first night in a university dorm. I was not so sure that my middlest would not still be scooching along on a ten-speed with training wheels on his way to and from high school. Could it be possible that some children never learn to ride a bike? I was afraid we might be about to find out.

And then, miraculously, it happened out of the blue. Wee elves must have broken into the garage over the last few weeks, because the bike gears became magically unjammed when we poked at the bike yesterday. (Seriously, that’s what must have happened. I certainly don’t have the ability to do more than replace a fallen-off chain!) And so we decided on the spot to give it another go.

I honestly don’t know who was more surprised, me or the boy, when he wobbled off down the road, picking up speed and grace by the meter, leaving me cheering behind him. We practiced for a while longer, pinging back and forth between the blind curve and the steep slope, ever grateful that we live on a quiet street where people are always on the lookout for kids. And he rode merrily back and forth without my help, clearly as surprised and pleased with his newfound balance as I was.

3 bikes

I’m so proud. And relieved! And I think we’ve got a few good weeks of decent weather left, to start enjoying those family bike rides at last.


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 AuPair September 10, 2012 at 8:44 am

Well done to him! and to you of course ;)
Kids are amazing sometimes.

2 Coffee with Julie September 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

Wheee!!!! Great news!! Sometimes kids just need to do things in their own time I guess (without their parents giving up).

P.S. This was so well written, Dani. I could really feel those same motherly emotions, even though I’m not in this particular situation.

3 littleredhen September 10, 2012 at 11:41 am

Boy is 9 and can’t ride a bike. We have as assortment of bikes of different sizes available to him but he has no interest in learning. I’ll suggest going out to try every once in awhile but he politely declines. It’s just not important to him. I’ve tried to entice him with promises of family bike rides or better yet, bike rides with daddy, but still no interest. It used to be important to me that he learn to ride a bike but I’ve moved on.

4 Chris/Canadian Dad September 11, 2012 at 8:12 am

That’s Great that he’s doing it! I totally know what you’re talking about too! My 4 year old son has no interest in bicycles because he loves his PlasmaCar too much to bother. I never pushed it on him but I think it’s time he started figuring it out as I don;t want him to get left behind. I feel the same way about skating so this winter is going to involve a LOT of skating time. Not like Tiger Woods style training but enough that he can get the hang of it :D

5 Mary @ Parenthood September 13, 2012 at 5:59 am

Yay for bike riding!

We have a similar dilemma in that my six 1/2 year old niece has not yet learned to ride a bike. No big deal except that my three year old daughter is more than ready to transition from her balance bike to something with pedals. Niece and daughter very close. Niece is competitive. We’ve held off but the demands for pedals are getting louder.

I hope niece figures it out soon!

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