Taking Off the Training Wheels

In all the school speech hubbub of yesterday, I didn’t get around to posting what I really wanted to post: My baby boy learned to ride his bike without training wheels yesterday.

My mom told me that I started wanting to learn to ride my bike at age four. She said all the older kids were riding theirs, and I wanted to also. I don’t remember that, but I do remember riding my brown, orange, and yellow (it was the 70s!) Roadmaster down a short sloped driveway at a neighbor’s house, my dad holding the hard yellow seat behind me. I remember skinned knees, and no helmet. I remember exhilaration.

I tried teaching Rollie this spring. I took him over to a parking lot nearby, and it was a disaster. No one got hurt, but I was nervous, he was wobbly and frustrated, and it was hot as Hades. We did not last long on the asphalt, and we gave up.

So, Rollie had a play date at a friend’s house earlier this year and the little girl could ride with no training wheels. Rollie was interested again. We have no flat area to learn to ride bikes in our yard, so we have to take the bike somewhere else to teach him to ride. We have been, shall we say, less than proactive about doing so.

Rollie started asking us more often to teach him, but something always came up. Then yesterday, Todd told us all to pack up and we headed over to the local park. We took Tiller’s little bike, too. We strapped them both in their helmets. Rollie even wore his knee and elbow pads (overkill, as it turned out). Todd got Rollie on the bike, and we showed him how to set up the right pedal (he is right-handed), so that he could stand on his left foot while using his right foot to step on the high right pedal, thereby giving himself a sort of initial boost of speed. We told him that he had to pedal fast to keep going. We told him that he needed to put his feet down when he came to a stop, that he needed to remember to steer.

I sat on a curb and bit my fingernails.

Todd went to the opposite end of the parking lot with him, and then slowly they started. Todd held onto the back of the seat, just as my own father had thirty-plus years ago. I wondered if my Mom could even watch me learning. I watched as my firstborn sped up, and wobbled, and freaked out and put his feet down on the pavement. I heard Todd say, “Slow down, Buddy. I can’t keep up with you.”

I watched as they tried again. Rollie took off, and started a little faster, and he was wobbly, and the look on his face was one of pure terror, mirroring my own I am sure, and suddenly, i realized Todd was not holding him anymore, just running right back and to the left, arms creating a waiting safety net around Rollie’s sides, but not touching him. I heard Todd speaking to him, “You’re doing it all on your own, buddy. You’re doing it.”

Tiller rode in circles, training wheels flashing in the sun. Todd and Rollie got ready again at the end of the parking lot. Tiller straightened out and pumped her legs as fast as they would go, sparks almost coming off the training wheels, her bike leaning precariously to her side. Rollie started off from a low incline, picked up speed, then started pedaling furiously as he quickly moved away from Todd. Rollie was moving of his own energy. Todd was left in the dust, looking panicky. I was in a panic of my own, my heart in my throat. I yelled, “You’re doing it, Buddy! you’re doing it!” Tiller’s bike rattled and she toppled over, a slow motion, non-life-threatening wobble. Meanwhile, Rollie came to a shaky stop, feet dragging on the pavement, and I was completely torn. Tiller’s training wheel came right off the bike and rolled in a large circle, slowed, came to a stop, and fell over.

We all looked at each other in amazement.

Rollie had ridden a bike by himself, and was all pride and bluster. Tiller had ridden the wheels right off her bike.

It was a good day. I only wish I had gotten video of the baby that once came out of my vagina now riding a bike around on his own bottom and two legs, laughing and getting mad because we wanted him to slow down. It just happened so fast.

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