Edward is three and a half. Or he will be next week. Usually this means that the things he impresses me with include his extreme and unfounded self-reliance, his capacity for destruction, and his excessive use of the phrases “NO!” “Why?” and “I DO IT MYSELF!” But every once in a while he impresses me in different ways, like the day he learned to ride a two-wheel bike in seven minutes.
He loves biking. He has his pick of community bikes here at the co-op, and he rides them all. I have been recognized by many people in grocery stores and fall festivals for having the kid who crazily rides random bikes at strangers on the way to pick his sister up from school. Since I’ve always wanted to be famous, this is a good start. But it seemed late in the season for taking those training wheels off. I have had it in my head for a while that as soon as Spring comes around I will teach Edward to ride a bike for real. It was all planned out in my head. The budding trees, the warming weather, the excitement after his 4th birthday when I would turn his four-wheel bike into a two-wheel bike and run close behind him as he wobbled along, learning slowly but surely to really ride, with help from his Dad. It was going to be truly pre-nostalgic.
Edward was not interested in giving me this memory for my old age. He was interested in riding that two-wheel Spider-Man bike that some kid had left out in the courtyard. He asked if he could ride it, and I laughed and thought “of course not!” I mean, it only had two wheels. He was not ready for this! He seemed undeterred though, so I agreed that he could try it out, expecting it go poorly. But it didn’t.
We spent a few trips around the courtyard with me basically holding him up, but then I decided to start letting go a little bit. He was not so sure about this and kept yelling at me to hold on to him, but when I explained that joyous rule of physics in which the faster you go, the easier it is to keep your balance, it was all over. He was off like a shot, all on his own, riding a bike around at top speed and terrifying the neighbors.
We haven’t worked on things like starting, stopping, or turning, but those things seem unimportant when compared with the far more vital skill of going straight as fast as possible, no matter what obstacle or person is in the way. Maybe we will work on these other skills in the next few weeks, or maybe I will wait until Spring after all. They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but I would hate for him to sort of get the hang of it, have winter arrive, and then have to do it all again six months later. Although then I would get to teach him how to ride a bike twice! And the second time could be more like my idealized mind-picture! The best of both worlds!
Oh, who am I kidding. If there is one thing I have learned from being a parent, it’s that kids do not care about how I want them to learn and grow. They are going to go at their own pace. Sometimes it is faster than I want, and sometimes it is slower, but all I can do is encourage them, be there for them, and prepare myself for the fun surprises. Oh, and worry constantly. It’s a good thing Edward loves his helmet.