Small Delights in Learning to Ride a Bike
- Category: Dad's Dirt Roads: A Blog
- on Mon Dec 30, 2013
- by Mark Stephens on Mon Dec 30, 2013 - (3) Comments
Way back when I was just barely a father, it just didn't occur to me that one of the things I'd have to do (get to do?) is teach my children to ride a bike. It's just not on the radar when you're swaddling and living large with a baby carrier on your belly. Last year when my wife suggested we get our then five-year-old daughter her first bike, I thought hmmm, yeah, sure. I could teach her to ride it, that'll be fun . . . Wait. OMG, I HAVE TO TEACH HER TO RIDE A BIKE?
It feels like the next thing you're going to hear is, "I'm going to college 2000 miles away because that's where my boyfriend is going," or worse. I have two girls and not a day goes by in which I wonder if they're going to move far, far away one day and stop needing me. Money, sure, geesh, they'll always ask for that. I mean I feel like I'm raising some incredible girls but some day they won't be mine any more. Maybe raising boys is different, but I don't know. So we got her a bike, gave it to her for Christmas last year.
I did my homework on how to teach a child to ride a bike, and quickly bought into to the take-off-the-pedals method. Here's a video tutorial. The bike we bought was a little too big, but, kids being kids, our daughter freaked out right away at the awesome purple paint job and declared her love for said bike. Fine, she'd grow into it. I tried it out anyway, dropping the seat as far down as it would go and removing the pedals. She hopped on and could barely touch her toes to the ground. We tried again a month later, then another and another.
She never quite got it. She could sit and sort of walk the bike, but it was obvious to me that she was just not comfortable. Too short, and too unsure. So we tried a balance bike this week, one that even appears a little too small for her except for the fact that she can control it. She's been amped to show me that she can do it, so we gave it a whirl today.
I spread out five sun-bleached sand-digging toys like safety cones and challenged her to weave between the toys. I coasted my bike through the course to show her, wondering how the heck I'd make some sense out of this idea of balance. She tried it, sitting and pushing with her feet—it didn't take her long to want to try coasting like me. We used sidewalk chalk to mark how far she'd go by coasting so she could see the progress. She tried over and over again, no complaints, even laughed if she crashed.
More importantly, I think she was finding her balance without me talking about it. She'd move her feet along the ground, give a big push, and focus on coasting the distance to the next toy or pink chalk mark we'd drawn in the street.
Just like that.
I don't know where this is going, people. But it should be good.