Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Riding bikes: zero to sixty in one day

We've been trying to get our boys to learn to ride their bicycles for years. They never really liked riding with training wheels, and when we took away the training wheels, they wanted them back. (That didn't happen.)

When we lived in Magnolia, Andrea and I took the boys to the Discovery Park basketball court to learn to ride a few feet. Jacob dug his heels in so far that it took convincing Reed to ride to motivate Jake to try it. They each rode unassisted for a few feet before promptly declaring their retirement from the sport.

A couple weekends ago, when Andrea was away for the day with one of her clients, I decided we'd take some baby steps toward riding bikes. I was so committed to baby steps, in fact, that I told them they'd only be riding a few feet. I drew a start line and the finish line. By the time Jacob saw how short a distance he'd have to go (which apparently was motivating for him), he decided he'd write the word "FINISH."

As I'm sure is the case with most kids learning to ride, his body tensed up and he began to shake when he mounted his bike (which, by the way, he named Sophie). I told him that he would only have to try it, I'd help him, and he'd have to go no farther than the finish line.

He made it across once with me holding the bicycle seat the whole time. We returned to the start and did it again. And by the third time, I was able to let go for a fraction of a second. By then, he was so terrified that he declared he was done and went inside to read. Then he and Reed decided they wanted to go to the store on their scooters.

Maybe it was the three mile round-trip on scooters that made them see the folly of their scooting ways. Maybe the painfully slow uphill trek. Maybe Reed's exhaustion that required I backpack his scooter and try to ride with him on the seat and me dangling precariously off the edge of my seat. Or maybe just the incredibly small successes earlier in the day that had time to reassure him. Either way, not long after we got home -- and after Andrea had returned -- Jacob was ready for another go on his bike. Our second round of the day went from a second or two of solo riding to twenty feet to nearly the length of our street with an unassisted, controlled stop. 

It was an unqualified success -- so much so that a few minutes later, when I went inside for some water, Reed came inside looking for his helmet and exclaimed, "Jacob's going to help me learn to ride my bike!"

As exciting and heartwarming as that was -- not only because of the brotherly love from both sides but also because Jacob was so quickly turned around on his opinion of bikes -- I figured he wasn't ready to help his brother. I returned outside and ran Reed through the same process. After he was able to do the same, Andrea and I called the grandparents to let them know of our major breakthrough.

While on the phone -- and without any help from us -- they had both learned on their own to start from no momentum, to ride around in circles, and even to control their balance while riding uphill.