A 7-year-old boy, he’s had a summer full of baseball and sports camp and swimming and neighborhood adventures. He’s been to the park (two blocks), to a sleepover party (five blocks), and out for pizza (six blocks). And not once did he get there by putting his tushie on the seat of a 2-wheel, training wheel-less bike. It’s just not happening.
When he turned 7 in late spring, my husband and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get rid of the training wheels. We took the boy to the store, let him pick an awesome orange and black 20-inch bike and thought we’d be off and biking within days.
The bike sat on our front porch. And sat. And sat.
I wasn’t surprised that learning to ride his new bike was not top of mind; I thought he’d grow into it. If every day he passed the bike on his way down the front steps, maybe one day he would get a wild notion to ride it. Even the smallest amount of parental pressure was shrugged off.
It’s partially my fault that the bike didn’t get much road time. With 2-year-old twins, I’m not up every morning thinking, “This is the day we go bike riding!” We got busy, school ended, and summer travel began. Still no bike riding. One Saturday I told my husband, “This has to happen. Today. So please, go to that flat, grassy park and work it out.”
A little backstory on my bipedal child: At 18 months he asked to read books at the playground; he didn’t swing, climb, run, slide, or explore. The first time he went down a slide he was 2. At almost 3 he still held my hand while walking down a few steps. In gymnastics class he watched all the other children hang upside down, jump into a huge bin of squishy blocks, tumble, and slide.
According to the Talmud, Jewish parents are required to teach children basic life skills like how to swim. I see bike riding in that category. Not only did my husband and I choose to live in an Atlanta neighborhood with walkable restaurants, schools, and shops, but our neck of the woods is becoming increasingly bike-friendly. We have lanes and signs and live near a college to which many professors and students bike. I need this kid to ride a bike. He needs to learn to pay attention to his environment, to gain independence, and to be active.
So remember that day at the park? It went well. My husband encouraged and cajoled and cheered and the boy rode the bike. One hundred yards! Two hundred yards! Three hundred yards… until he fell and scraped his leg. And back home he came–defeated, sobbing, and more adamant than before. We were beating a dead horse.
Last week we packed up the car for a trip to the beach. My husband came inside and announced: “It’s the double stroller or the bike. Both won’t fit.”
We were minutes from departure. The kids swirled around us, excited with the promise of a weeklong vacation. Did I really want to beg and plead the boy again during our last days of summer? My husband and I locked eyes and it was silently decided.
The bike can wait. We chose the stroller.