Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I've Got Myself a Bike-Rider
From my vacation journal, written on 7/11/07.
When I first became a single mama, I was seized with a host of fears and anxieties. I think that this is to be expected --- it's scary enough being a parent when there are two of you, let alone suddenly finding yourself a single parent, as I did one Friday night. I'm not really sure why, but I had a tendency to focus on the most irrational of my fears. Tops on that list was the fear that I would not be able to teach my son to ride his bike without training wheels. I spent hours worrying about this problem.
JT has wanted to ride without training wheels for the last year and a half, but he's been afraid to try. Fear of failure was too great for him to manage. He's always been tentative about trying new things. Having a parent suddenly walk out didn't help. But when you are a child, so many of your daily experiences are new things. Trying something new is unavoidable. With that in mind, last summer we mastered what we could and I tried to put my anxieties on the back burner. We attempted riding without the training wheels a few times. I'd run behind holding the back of the bike, giving advice and encouragement. But he was afraid and it didn't happen. The trainers stayed on the bike throughout the fall, winter, and spring.
In the intervening year, JT has grown more confident. He's learned to master reading and the razor scooter that A & M gave him for Christmas became a big favorite. He rode it all winter long, even in the cold. When the weather turned warm, he rode for hours, whizzing up and down the street, a blur of speeding boy. It gave him confidence in the power of his body, a very good thing.
At the end of June after we had returned from California, one afternoon I casually suggested that we remove the training wheels and practice riding his bike on the grass, where a fall would hurt less. To my surprise, he was willing to give it a try. So we took off the training wheels and brought the bike to the backyard. He had much better balancing skills and was nearly an instant success. We moved to the driveway and then to the front yard. He was riding without training wheels!
But he still couldn't start off without my hand to stabilize the back of the bike. So that was our task at the campground on our first Monday. There was a nice paved road ringing our campsite. He and I both knew that road could provide hours of bike-riding fun. But he'd need to start off on his own. We spent about 20 minutes practicing before he had mastered the skill. Now he can ride on his own, stopping and starting as he pleases. It's a beautiful thing to behold. As of this writing, he's already pedaled several miles around the campsite and we still have 9 more days of vacation.
It's somehow fitting that just as I complete my first year as a single mama (and have lived to tell the tale), JT has mastered a skill I worried I would be unable to teach him. Nearly every day, I still wonder why it is that Lisa left. I wish that I didn't have to be a parent alone. But every day of every week; month after month, with the immeasurable help and support of family and friends, I am raising this boy to be a strong, independent young man. And whether the task I face as a parent is little or big, I am beginning to believe that I can do it.