Us: Bicycle Built for Three

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One of the earliest rights of passage for a child is learning to ride a bike. The decision to take off the training wheels is not to be taken lightly because what follows is usually full of drama and fear. My three kids could not have been more different in this area and their personalities are reflected clearly in each of their tales.

William, the content one, decided to become training wheel independent because his friends were doing it. I can imagine his logic (and with William there was always logic involved) was, “Well, all my friends are doing it, they seem to be okay, guess I will give it a try.” So we took off the training wheels and began the process of learning to ride a bike. It was a slow process, William was cautious and needed quite a bit of encouragement as I held up the bike and he learned his center of gravity and balance points. But the progress was steady and his determination to join his friends eventually led to him successfully navigating the cul de sac and and becoming a full time member of his bike riding pack of friends.

Jordan was a different story entirely. He came up to me one day, requested the training wheels be taken off and, after a few “Are you sure?” questions from me, we headed to the road to begin the process. And it lasted all of ten seconds. I began behind him, hand on the seat, and started slowly pushing him forward and, next thing I know, he has taken off and left me behind. I waved and shouted, “Be careful” and headed back to the house.

Then there is Laura. I have not made a mistake in the order I am presenting this because she was third. Laura was content to ride her bike with training wheels and had no interest in taking them off, regardless of peer pressure or the occasional suggestion from us. I can still see her riding around in a circle, singing, laughing and ignoring the two extra wheels on her bike. But the day Jordan made his move to two wheels, something changed. She has written about this from her perspective here, but from my parental seat, it made me laugh. Once she saw her little brother jetting around the cul de sac for a few days, she decided it was time. I barely got out of the car one evening after work when she approached me and quietly asked if I would take off the training wheels on her bike. I looked at her and tried not to smile, and asked her why now? She said it was time and she “really, really wanted to learn this time.” So I unbolted the extra wheels and we walked to the end of the driveway to begin our first lesson.

Where William had calm fear, Laura's was palpable. She was very nervous and repeated over and over that I was not to let her go under any circumstances. I assured her that I was committed and would do all I could to keep her on the bike. We made several loops in front of the house, her consistently chiding me to not let go and me always assuring her I was there. Eventually, I sensed she was ready so I stopped and she kept going. Although she was unaware that I was no longer there, made evident by her continuing to tell me to not let go, she rode the bike alone. Sure, she was unsteady and when I finally shouted to her that she was actually riding the bike without me, the “really?” that escaped from her was a mix of fear and accomplishment. By this time we had an audience, kids and parents from the houses around us, and everyone applauded and encouraged her. She was so excited that she misjudged her circumference in a turn and was on a beeline to a large, brick mailbox. In a mild panic, she couldn't decide whether to try to steer away from it or to stop so she took the third option and ran into it. Her shouts of “I'm okay, daddy” and her willingness to get back on let me know, yes, she would be okay. And there was much rejoicing at Gettysburg Court.

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