Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Learning (and teaching) how to ride a bike!

One of my most favorite childhood pastimes is riding a bike. I have a difficult time pinpointing exactly why that is the case, but it seems to be a universal feeling as I hear the same type of reaction from most people I know. Maybe it’s the freedom and independence that it represents; maybe it’s the speed, maybe it’ the cool factor. Whatever the case, some of my fondest childhood memories were created on the bike.

I still remember my first bike, the Red Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat. I would put my baseball cards (doubles only, especially those of the hate Yankees) in the spokes to make it sound like a motorcycle. I remember practicing slamming on the brakes in an effort to leave skid marks on the driveway concrete (a pastime my mother was not quite as fond of). These are all memories that have become reasons I looked forward to teaching my son how to ride his bike.

My son has been pedaling around with training wheels for a while now, but just hasn’t worked up the balance to tackle riding without them. But when we moved to our new house over the winter, one of the lost treasures we found left behind in the barn by the former owners was a child’s bike (made to look like a motorized dirt bike). Now this bike was old, covered in dust, had two flat tires, the stylish flame stickers were peeling off, and it had a rusty old chain that looked like it hadn’t tasted oil in a decade, but my son immediately fell in love with it. We pulled it out into the light of day for what was probably the first time in years and dusted it off. My son immediately wanted to get on this rusty steed and give it a spin around the yard. I hesitated, but knew this was a golden opportunity.

Fortunately, our yard has a slight downhill pitch to it, perfect for someone trying to gain a little (but not too much) momentum on a bike, especially someone who is five years old and just learning how to ride. Unfortunately, this type of arrangement makes learning to ride a bike similar to sledding . . . ride down the hill, walk back up the hill, and repeat (over and over again). We went to the top of the hill and before my son got on the bike, he reminded me he needed a helmet. After getting his helmet properly positioned on his head, he got on the bike. At this moment, we were positioned in the traditional “dad teaching son how to ride bike” position. My son was tentatively holding on to the handlebars, both feet on the pedals, and I had my hand on the back of the seat. Mommy was properly positioned with the camera and little sister was cheering him on. After taking a second to breathe in this potential milestone, my son yelled what every boy his age would say, “Let’s do daddy!” So, off we went, me running behind him with one hand safely secured under his seat, huffing and puffing while yelling, “PEDAL, PEDAL!”

That is when I pulled the necessary trick every mom or dad who has taught their children to ride a bike had to pull . . . I let go. And just as expected, he slowly rode away with a smile on his face, enjoying the freedom, independence, speed, and cool factor this rickety, rundown bike gave him. Whatever the case, I had just passed along a great tradition and I was there to experience every stroke of the pedal running right by his side.

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