Because I had a terrible 6 a.m. workout this morning, I want to tell you all about the best workout I’ve had lately. It’s a total cardio adrenaline rush that combines walking, jogging, and running fast, all while yelling encouraging phrases like, “You can do it!” “You got this!” and “Look at you go!” It also helps you lose water weight because there may be some tears involved.
It’s called teaching your child to ride a bike.
My daughter is five and has been riding a pedal-less balance bike for a couple years now. We mutually decided a sunny Saturday morning was the perfect time to try riding a bike with pedals and her brother’s bike was the right size for practice.
Here’s what happened over the course of one hour last weekend.
Before we started, I shared a few of my own bike-riding stories in an attempt to prevent any discouragement should she fall early on. Like the time I received a brand new pink Huffy when I was eight years old. I had all the confidence in the world riding it up and down the street for the first time, my zig zags getting ziggier and zaggier and boom! Skinned knee and elbow and of course no helmet back then. Or the time in college I tried mountain biking for the first time and crashed, literally, at the very entrance of the trail where pavement met dirt. And lastly, for her and your entertainment, there was the time I was on my way to buy a helmet and crashed in the intersection across the street from the bike shop. Good times!
I tried holding on to the back of her seat, but what really worked best was to hold onto the middle of the handle bars. I gave her some pointers which turned into mantras I could see her mouthing to herself as she pedaled: Strong legs, strong arms! Push forward, pull back!
At first she was a little wobbly, but I think all the practice on a pedal-less bike really paid off as far as balance goes. It was the steering that challenged her for a bit.
Before long I noticed I was loosening my grip on her handlebars. I let her know she was riding on her own, but she didn’t quite believe me. So I lifted my hands and made a look-ma-no-hands move and she lost all confidence within seconds, nearly going down.
We went up and down the neighborhood a few more times, she getting faster and faster, me getting out of breath and breaking a sweat.
She asked if I could try letting go again, so I did, and this time she maintained her balance and speed. I simply ran alongside her, cheering her on.
You can do it! You got this! Look at you go!
Sentimental mama that I am, I also had to throw in, “Even if you don’t need me I’ll always be here for you. Just remember that.”
But she did still need me because up until this point she could only go in a straight line down the street. In order to turn, she would get off and turn her bike around, needing a little push to get started again.
A very short time later she asked if I could let her do everything by herself. “Of course,” I said and watched her mount and take off on her own. I started running alongside when she said, “No mama, I mean everything. Like don’t even run beside me anymore.”
And just like that, she was off riding her bike. Up, down, and all around the neighborhood. In driveways, on sidewalks, in circles. Stopping and starting again with ease.
She’s riding a bike for the first time and meanwhile I’m flipping ahead through the pages of her life’s album, watching her grow up before my eyes. The tug of war we’ve been playing since she was born, not against each other, but within ourselves as she becomes more and more independent. Her days of pulling me close are still many, but the pushing me away is inevitable.
She pushes forward with one pedal while pulling back with the other, the joy of a new skill evident in her smile. I let her know, “I’m so proud of you!”
She’ll never forget how to ride a bike and I’ll never forget watching her learn.