Learning to ride a bike was not exactly a fun experience for me. I’m physically awkward and uncoordinated, and the whole balance thing does not come easily to me, which is a bit of a problem when you’re trying to ride around on 1″ wide wheels.
I can still picture the parking lot where my dad attempted to teach me. I can still see his normally patient facade cracking. And I can still feel the shame of being the kid who was never very good at riding a bike.
As most of us do when we become parents, it’s always been my hope that things would be different for my girls, that they would be more coordinated than I am and able to do those things that seem so important when you’re in elementary school — ride a bike, do a cartwheel, rollerblade, go across the monkey bars.
The only problem? We live in the boonies with a gravel driveway and gravel road. In fact, our girls only had bikes at my parents’ house right up until they began to pack for their move to Florida late last year, and I was starting to worry that our 8-year-old was never going to get enough practice to actually learn to ride without training wheels.
Then a funny thing happened.
When their grandparents dropped off their bikes at our house, the girls excitedly began riding back and forth on the wooden “bridge” that runs along the side of our house. It hardly seemed like enough practice (or much fun at all), but they kept at it, eventually graduating to the gravel driveway as their practice area.
When one of the training wheels on our oldest’s bike broke, she just kept riding. And eventually she asked Daddy to take off the other one…and just kept riding.
Surely it was a fluke. Learning to ride a bike takes special equipment like balance bikes and hours of running back and forth holding onto the back of the bike while the kids pedal…right?
And then our 7 year old decided she was ready to learn too. She hopped on a bike without training wheels and wobbled up and down my mother-in-laws driveway. The next week she did it again and started to gain some balance. And the third week she took off and hasn’t looked back since. She came home and asked Daddy to take the training wheels off her bike as well and then showed off her new skills:
I love this for so many reasons, not the least of which is that while my kids may have inherited some of my quirky traits, they ended up with my husband’s balance and coordination. But I also love that it reinforces in their own minds that they can teach themselves whatever they want to learn without waiting for an “expert” to show them how. Along with the swimming skills they’ve also picked up this summer, despite a two-year hiatus from lessons, it’s just another example of our better late than early philosophy in action.
When they’re ready…they’re just ready!
How do you teach your kids to ride a bike?