“Okay, dad, I’m ready. You can take my training wheels off now!” five-year-old Molly chirped brightly. She grinned at my husband Jeremy and me, her cheeks pink, her coat splattered with mud. If only I had my kids’ bulletproof confidence! As Jeremy went in search of tools, I made a mental checklist of first aid supplies to deal with Molly’s inevitable scrapes and bruises. Learning to ride a bike was an all-day task, filled with ping-ponging emotions and damaged egos, and I should know!
My own foray into bike-riding was inauspicious. My dad led me into an all concrete parking lot, with the hot summer sun beating down. I wasn’t wearing sunscreen and possibly not even a helmet – hey, it was the nineties! Dad gripped the back of my bike seat tightly, and I pushed the pedals, wobbling unsteadily. Suddenly, he let go of the seat and I was riding by myself! “DOHNLOOBECK!” my dad yelled. “What??” I screamed, as I headed down a slight hill, picking up speed. “DON’T LOOK BACK!” he yelled. Of course, I looked back, and saw him sprinting towards me, a look of fear in his eyes.
I woke up in the hospital. My mom, sister, and dad were all clustered around me as I lay on a stretcher. Apparently, I had used my face as an emergency brake, slamming into a concrete curb. I’m sure I didn’t “fall into a coma” (as I told my classmates later), but I did lose consciousness. My entire upper lip scabbed over, and to this day I have a scar under my nose. So yes, my bike riding lesson went well! After the trauma subsided and my face healed, I became more determined than ever to ride my bike. For three days, I fell, crashed, and careened wildly on that two-wheeled demon until finally, FINALLY, I rode a wonky loop around the yard. I had tamed the beast! And all it cost me was grievous bodily harm!
So, I prepared myself for the worst when Jeremy took Molly’s training wheels off. She was so excited, and I held my breath as Jeremy steadied her on the bike. She pushed off fearlessly, rode three feet, and toppled over onto the grass. “That was awesome, honey! What a great first try,” I cheered. “Yeah,” Molly puffed, “but I can do better.” She got up, dusted herself off, and tried again. Imagine my astonishment when, within twenty minutes, she was steering and braking like a pro. I’ve got to stop underestimating my kids!
Is this the same little girl I carried in a bundle in my arms? The same little girl I pushed in a stroller? Who is this fearless, courageous kid zooming around the yard like a daredevil? “Come on, mom!” Molly calls out. “Let’s go for a ride!” As I climb onto my bike and clip on my helmet, a thought crosses my mind: this time I’ll use my brakes to stop, instead of my face!