Sometimes I think I’ve failed as a parent. (Okay, maybe more than sometimes). I mean my kids are clean, well-mannered and get along most of the time. But we are two weeks into summer vacation and I’ve heard I’m bored more times than I can count.
I know we don’t live in 1983 anymore. Kids don’t spend the entire day outside, riding their bikes and hanging out at the park, only going back home when they are hungry or when the street lights come on. And I totally understand why; it’s a bad, bad world out there.
But I’m going to take it a step further, and here comes the failed parent part, my kids don’t even know how to ride a bike! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not for lack of trying. We have all the proper equipment – the helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves…you’d think they were going to hop on a motorcycle with all the equipment we have.
But my kids are far from bad to the bone.
And quite frankly, I got tired of trying.
And I was embarrassed. Embarrassed because each time I tried to teach them, there were meltdowns, and tears and screaming and, well that was just me. I had romantic notions of going for a walk with my family, my husband and I walking behind my girls riding their bikes, stopping at the end of each sidewalk before continuing our way around the neighbourhood. But the reality is we’ve never made it past the nine squares of sidewalk in front of our house!
I’m not sure why they find it so difficult. Push your feet forward on the pedals and the bike moves. Push your feet backwards and the bike stops. My kids sit there, tears streaming down their faces, screaming that the bike isn’t doing anything. Or when they actually start to move, they push back and stop, crying louder that it stopped.
Do we really live in an automated world where they think they can physically pedal a bike without any effort?
No. I refuse to accept that.
I am ashamed to say that I gave up trying. I didn’t even attempt to get them on a bike last year. But this year that will not be the case. I will get them on a bike, even if it kills me. Let’s just hope my neighbours don’t mind the sound of kids crying.
Here’s the thing, I LIVED on my bike. I had a blue bike with a pretty little white basket on the front and a banana seat. Remember those?! I went everywhere on the bike. I’ve mentioned that I grew up in a condo, and we were part of a cluster of about 4-5 buildings, so I would ride my bike in and around each parking lot and building again, and again, and again. Looking back, it probably wasn’t so safe for me to be riding around a parking lot, but it was my playground. And if I didn’t go over the hill on one side (to the main street) or across the smaller street on the other side, I could ride out there as long as I wanted to. When my mother whistled (so cliché, but true story), I had to go inside.
I had that bike until I graduated grade eight and got a red 10-speed, followed by a mountain bike in high school. By then we lived in a house, and so I had the entire subdivision as my playground. I went to friends’ houses, and through the park, again and again. My family and I even used to go and ride our bikes through the ravine behind Humber College. Aside from getting eaten alive by blackflies and mosquitos, I have very fond memories of doing that.
And yes, I understand that I was going around by myself, or with my friends, starting from about aged nine or so and yes, it was a different time. I’m not saying that I’m going to send my girls to ride up and down Highway 7, where the speed limit is 70 KM, but they should want to go outside!
Riding my bike was fun. We played games, tried (stupid) stunts and had races. Nobody cared what your bike looked like, and nobody wore suits of armor. We went, we fell, we dusted ourselves off and we kept going.
As the school year started to wind down and the weather got nicer, and I would pick up my girls from school, I often found the Little Mouse riding a giant tricycle. It gives me a little hope that she’ll be open to learning, however the main issue here is fear. And we don’t have a tricycle. We have bikes.
When I asked the Little Bird about learning to ride a bike, she started to panic. And when I dug a little deeper, the real reason is she is afraid to fall off.
“What will happen if I fall off?” she asked, full of dread.
“You’ll get back up again,” I told her.
“But what if I hurt myself?” she asked.
“We’ll make sure you’re okay and then you’ll get back on and try again.” I said.
“But I don’t know how.” She said.
“But you didn’t know how to swim at one point, and now you do. You didn’t know how to do karate, or paint, or read. And now you do. So, you’ll learn, and we’ll be there to guide you and then you’ll know how to ride a bike.” I said.
She’s not convinced and I’m pretty sure didn’t listen to anything I said, because she’s afraid of getting hurt. Period. End of story. And there is nothing I could say to stop her from worrying about that (very probable) possibility. I tried to explain that I’ve fallen off my bike too, but that SHE would have a helmet and pads and gloves and would probably be okay.
That wasn’t good enough either.
I’m trying here. I’m trying to prepare her for the likelihood that she will fall a few times, but that she’ll eventually get it and that the fun of riding her bike will be a better feeling that would outdo the fear she has of falling.
She tried to use the excuse that she didn’t have a helmet anymore, as hers was too small. (And while this is probably true because she hasn’t worn it in a couple of years, how she knows this is a mystery.) We told her we’d buy her a new one. She tried to use the excuse that she doesn’t even have a bike. Which is another valid point, but not having a bike isn’t going to stop us from trying, as we plan on buying her a new one.
The Little Mouse can have her old helmet (which is pretty much brand new) and her pads and gloves, and there is a two-wheeled bike with training wheels waiting for her. I have a feeling she’ll love it. I have a feeling they will both love it, once they feel the breeze on their faces and the burn in their legs as they pump the pedals.
That feeling is summer. And I want them to get outside and play, ride and be free!
(Within a safe distance from us. Let’s be real, it’s 2017 and they aren’t going out alone.
It’s been probably 20 years since I’ve gotten on a bike, I recently found my old mountain bike after cleaning up my parents’ garage. It’s in fantastic condition and I considered selling it. But after talking with D, I think we’re going to keep it. And maybe start a new adventure together.
That is, once I teach my girls to learn how to ride a bike!
Wish me luck; I’m going to need it.