By David Williams
I stood on my front porch watching my son ride his bicycle. The sun was setting, and the sky had that orange-reddish hue as if it was putting up the last struggle before yielding to the darkness. My attention was divided between the two.
My son rode his bike to the edge of the steps, got off and walked up to me. I took my eyes off the fading sky and focused on him.
“Dad, I believe it is time for us to take the training wheels off.”
“Are you sure about that little man?”
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation.
I returned my gaze to the sky and did some quick calculations in my mind, knowing that we were about to open a door that could never be closed again.
“Okay let me get my tools,” I finally said.
Together we worked to take the training wheels off of his bicycle. Once that was done, he climbed onto the seat and placed his feet on the pedals. I tried my best to explain to him the sequence of events that he was about to experience, but sometimes words aren’t enough and learning how to ride a bike is one of those times.
I held the bike by the rear of the seat. He perched there, wobbling at a standstill. He started to pedal, and for the first few steps I was right there with him, but as every parent must do, I had to let go.
His initial solo pedal strokes were firm and sure, but once he realized he was on his own, he panicked. His bicycle had what could only be described as a full-blown seizure. It bucked, it rocked, it wobbled and finally crashed.
I raced to him, and as I approached I heard him say, “Ouchhhhh.”
I helped him up and looked him over. He was fine, more scared then hurt.
“That was pretty good,” I said.
He gave me a look as if during his short time on the planet he had somehow misunderstood the term ‘pretty good.’
“Why did you stop pedaling?” I asked.
“Why did you let go?”
“That’s the way you learn how to ride a bicycle. Now lets give it another try.”
He climbed back onto his bike, but this time with less zeal. We repeated our required steps, and once again he was riding solo. This time he did something completely unexpected – he started talking to his bicycle.
“Whoa, stop,” he shouted. The bike didn’t listen.
Next he attempted the Fred Flintstone braking method, which ended with similar results. And then like a moth drawn to a flame, his bike found the neighbor’s tree.
“Dad I really hurt myself that time,” he said when I arrived at the scene of the crash.
“Yeah, probably so,” I replied. “D.J., telling your bike to stop or putting your feet down isn’t how you stop a bicycle. You must press the brakes. Let me show you.”
I took his bike turned it upside down from its crashed position. I turned the pedals with my hands and allowed the wheel to spin. While they were turning, I yelled “whoa” and stopped.
“Do you see how the bicycle doesn’t listen to me? But once you apply pressure to the brakes, it will stop like this.”
As I demonstrated, he watched intently and took it all in. As I returned the bike to the riding position to resume our lesson, it was his turn to notice the sky.
“Sure is getting dark. Maybe we should go inside.”
I looked at the sky and re plied, “Yeah it is getting dark, but it is a good thing we have a front porch light. Wait here while I go inside and turn it on.” This was the open door I spoke of. I could not allow him to fail, because in my mind this was one of those moments that serve as a building block of confidence for future challenges. I turned the porch light on and we continued the lesson.
He crashed a few more times but eventually he got it and for all who have experienced learning how to ride or teaching your child to ride it was awesome. He was beaming and smiling from ear to ear, once he realized that he could ride his bicycle without training wheels.
As we were walking into the house he said, “Dad do you know what I was thinking about each time I fell down?” “No, what were you thinking?” I asked. “I kept thinking about those words from that song, (We fall down, but we get up) and I just kept getting up.” Wow, “Out of the mouth of babes” I thought. I wish that we could all learn that.