You got new bikes! They are magnificent – although not as cool as the bike I had as a kid with streamers on the handles and a big banana seat with a rainbow on it – they are still, in their own ways, magnificent.
Buddy, yours is a Star Wars Rebels bike. It goes super fast (so you tell me) and has little buttons near the handles that make laser gun noises and tie fighter noises. Ok, that might be cooler than my rainbow banana seat.
Kitten, yours is a Tinker Bell bike. It’s purple with streamers on the handles. I think the purple-ness of it helps you get over the fact that your feet don’t exactly touch the ground yet. However, at the rate you are growing that could change by next week.
All of this put me in mind of my bike-riding days. I learned to ride a bike without training wheels when I was about 7 years old. My dad would take me up to the top of our block where there was a nice-sized blacktop which the church across the street used for over-flow parking on Sundays. It was our biking spot.
Dad would push me along and let go – the standard bike-riding teaching technique for generations. I would wobble for about 2 feet and fall over – the standard first ride result for generations. Push-wobble-fall, push-wobble-fall, push-wobble-fall…understandably, my father got a tad frustrated after about a 30 minutes of this. I was in tears. There was disappointment on all sides.
Meanwhile, my older sister glided in circles around us with her impressive training-wheel-less skills. Show off.
Eventually, Dad left and walked home shaking his head, leaving my sister and I on the blacktop. My sister dismounted her bike and committed right then and there to teaching me how to ride my bike without training wheels.
She told me that I would probably fall…a lot. She told me to put my foot on the ground if I felt wobbly or scared. She showed me how to bail without hurting myself. She showed me how to use the curb to get on the bike easier. She told me that she knew how frustrating it was, but that I was doing a great job.
The great wall of impossibility lifted. I suddenly knew that I could do this. And within 20 minutes…I could!
The period of elation was splendid…if short-lived. Now that the last member of our family had learned how to ride a big bike, we could go on Family Biking Trips. ::Groan::
Dad biked often. And far distances. And across great terrains. On purpose. Without anything chasing him.
The rest of us biked to church, school or 7-Eleven (all within a mile, tops). We avoided hills. We liked to coast.
We biked for fun. He biked for challenge. Family Biking Trips sucked were character-building.
I recall being at the back of the pack (always), struggling to keep up. My father would shout over his shoulder, “Put it in gear, Meg!” I thought this was just an expression until my mother finally answered back, “It’s a one-speed bike!”
“It is?” He responded and just like that I got my first bike with gears. To this day I have no idea what gear is for what, but they did make an impressive ‘clunk’ when you changed them.
On the very next Family Bike Trip we all mounted up and headed down our hill. I pushed back on my pedals to engage the breaks – something that had never failed me on any bike I’d ever ridden to that point in my life – and DID NOT STOP.
I screamed for help. “Hand break!” my Dad yelled at me as I zoomed past him.
“What’s a hand break??” I shouted over my shoulder.
Eventually I bailed out on a neighbor’s lawn. Immediately after I got a crash-course (somewhat literally) in how to use the little levers in front of my handle bars to break the bike. I still prefer back pedal breaks and wish adult bikes had them. An well…
Despite the Family Bike Trips and my many near-death experiences, I still enjoyed a happy bike-riding childhood. The highlight being the freedom to roam our neighborhood at large…and trips to 7-Eleven.
Most weekends during the summer, my sister and I would hop on our bikes, bargain who would carry the backpack (it made your back sweaty), and set out for 7-Eleven.
We always got the same things: Two slurpees, a bag of chips, and two boxes of candy (usually Hot Tamales). The bag of chips was key; positioned in the middle if the back pack, it kept the slurpees upright for the ride home. And let me tell you, you do not want a slurpee drpping down your back a half mile from home. Refreshingly cool? yes. Sticky? oh yea.
So, kids, enjoy the bikes and – eventually – the freedom! …so long as you bring me back a slurpee 😉