August 16, 2014

When your child rides a bike | Two wheels

I'm going to point out the obvious. Meredith's bike was way too small for her. Her training wheels had been off for more than a year and she had no interest in learning to ride it without the security of the noisy little wheels that accompanied the back tire.

For the longest time I worried if she would ever learn. When she was just a toddler the pediatrician cautioned me not to be that parent who pushes her child in everything instead of letting time take it's course. Her advice was simple, yet priceless. It is better to be a helping hand to your child when they are ready to learn rather than a forceful hand in the face of your child's fear. Andrew and I heeded that piece of advice on nearly everything from learning to walk to potty training. We were the guiding hand when Meredith was ready.

I don't know why I didn't follow that simple rule with bike riding. Mostly I was scared that she would never learn. I was afraid she would be like the adult who never learned to swim out of fear the water would soon swallow her whole. I didn't want her to be afraid, but she was. She was scared of skinned knees, blood trailing down her skin, and tears brimming her eyes. She was scared of the pain that would come with falling.

All her fear led me to frustration. Many nights we came inside with hands raised to the sky, surrendering to God for any glimmering sign that our child would learn to ride, and preferably before she turned 9. Meredith simply had no interest in the two wheeler and no force could make her. We were frustrated and she was too. So we stopped forcing her hand.

It wasn't until Meredith witnessed her friend down the street go from two training wheels, to one, then none, that she also wanted to get back on the balancing act. It was in that moment something kicked in and she either didn't want to be the last of her friends to learn or she was inspired by her friend's fearless motivation. I didn't care which one motivated her. All I knew is that I didn't want to wait for the moment to pass by, so we grabbed the bike and headed out to the streets.

It still took Meredith about a month to learn to ride the bike. The most difficult thing for her was balancing and keeping the wheel straight. After the first few times of me guiding her, she decided she didn't want help. So I sat back and watched or jumped on my bike, taking care not to overly correct her bike skills with my words. It was something she had to feel out. The less I spoke the better she did. Meredith was taking time to get to know her bike, and I was OK with that.

On August 5th Meredith rode her bike for the first time. She and I were both elated. She screamed "oh my gosh! I love riding bikes!" within a few minutes of staying steady. I jumped for joy... For her. She had finally done it and it was just like the pediatrician said so long ago. Your child will learn everything in time. I don't know why I forgot that. Sometimes parents can hinder with their frustrations toward their children, or even their expectations. This was a lesson for Meredith and myself.

In the end she learned how to ride at her own pace. I'm not sure if this was more of a lesson for me than it was for her.

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