I feel like learning to ride a bike comes with a special sense of freedom and adventure. It’s a big milestone for a child and the start of a newfound sense of freedom. It was also an emotional experience for this mom of the newest little speed racer on the block. I can only imagine what it will be like when he starts driving! Yikes!
I’ve been watching my son enviously eyeing the neighborhood kids on their bikes for a while now. Every time he saw a group of them he’d ask to get his bike out and ride, but he just couldn’t keep up and the training wheels would give him problems around corners. So he shocked me this past weekend by asking me to take off his training wheels. I didn’t think he was ready (he’s only three!), but he insisted. And by insisted I mean threw a raging fit where I was ready to take the handlebars off if he asked me.
Learning to ride a bike is the first step to epic childhood adventures. I remember leaving the house on my bike, meeting up with neighborhood kids and not coming home until the street lamps came on. All we needed was a bike and a backpack and we could be The Goonies hunting for treasure, or Elliot taking off with E.T. We were free to travel and explore as long as we didn’t go too far.
I also remember when my own mom taught me to ride a bike. She held the seat and ran behind me while I pedaled furiously. I was going fast and having a great time, until I turned around and saw she wasn’t there and I immediately fell over. I can’t remember how many more tries it took, because only that instance is forever burned into my brain. It was a pretty spectacular crash. Lots of screaming. I think it was a while before I even trusted my mom again.
Like “Hey mom, remember that time I trusted you and you totally let go and didn’t tell me?” My confidence was a little shaken.
I was super paranoid of my son experiencing that same let down so I hovered around like a total helicopter mama on his first try. And you know what? He was ready. He didn’t fall over when I let go. He wanted to fly on his own.
And just like that, the training wheels were off and he went zooming down the street. I tried not to get too teary eyed because I didn’t want him to think I was sad. It was like another little baby part of him melted away and he grew up a tiny bit more in that moment. He may have been ready, but I was still trying to hold on.
For the next several days he would tell me, “Mom, I want to ride my pedal bike with no training wheels.” As if he were afraid I’d be putting them back on. When I let him know he would never need training wheels again, he seemed shocked and then asked me, “Is it because I’m a big boy now?”
I told him, “Yes, you can ride a bike like a big boy, but you still have a lot of growing to do. So listen to your mom, wear your helmet and always look for cars.”
So big, yet so little all at the same time.
At least his obsession with bike riding has been pretty good for me – we did three miles before 9AM the other day! Sometimes I run with him and sometimes I ride my bike. But I’m happy to say I’ve closed all my exercise rings on my watch app all week. Maybe this will be the secret to shedding that holiday weight that’s making my pants feel too tight.
And several people have asked me if we started him on a balance bike, and the answer is Yes! He started with one when he could barely walk. It was really small and had a double back wheel, so it stood on its own. Then he graduated to the Strider style balance bike (but some other brand) where it looks just like a regular bike, but without pedals.
The funny thing about starting them on a balance bike is that when you introduce them to one with pedals, they have no idea how to work them. That was his biggest hurdle- figuring out pedalling. And he is still a little iffy on using brakes instead of doing the “Fred Flintstone” stop. But once he got the hang of the pedals, you could see how everything clicked into place and he was able to apply those balance bike skills to riding a regular bike.
And once he took off, he never looked back.