It’s almost a miracle. For the first few years of their lives, kids can’t ride a two-wheeler. Then, like magic, one day they can.
On my fifth birthday, my parents gave me a bicycle. It had no training wheels. On that cold December morning, my daddy stood beside me at the end of our long concrete driveway with one hand on the back of the bike seat. My feet were on the pedals and my hands clinched the handlebars. “I’m going to give you a push,” Daddy said. “Whatever you do, don’t stop pedaling!!!” I rode a few feet and then fell over. “Strong start!” he said. “I bet you’ll have it figured out by the time I get home.” Then he got in his car and went to work.
Sure enough, Daddy was right.
I told that story to my own kids when they were little and now share it with my grandkids. Granddaughter Emmie took the lesson so much to heart that she learned to ride a two-wheeler several months before turning five. But her cousin Eli–caught up in too much busy-ness, including a move from Kentucky to California—turned six with the training wheels still on his bike. And me more than two thousand miles away, unable to coach him.
That was to be one of our first orders of business when I got to California last month. When I walked in the door, Eli and little sister June came running. “Today we’re going to learn to REALLY ride our bikes!” they said. Matt, their dad, took the training wheels off. Put air in the tires. Helped them buckle on their helmets. Then off we went to a nearby park.
I began the lesson on the vacant soccer field because grass hurts less than asphalt when you fall. “The number one rule in learning to ride a two-wheeler is this,” I said. “Whatever you do, don’t stop pedaling!!!” Eli climbed onto his bike while I steadied it. “I’m going to run along with you,” I told him. “But don’t pay any attention to me. Just keep pedaling.” After several strong starts, it was clear he was ready to graduate to pavement. With a couple of tips on how to start and stop, he was off on his own.
Then it was four-year-old June’s turn. Her bike was tiny and she never pedaled more than a few feet before falling over, but she never cried and I cheered every attempt. “I bet you’ll have it figured out by tomorrow,” I told her. The next morning, I headed to the park about ten minutes behind Matt and the kids. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a little bitty girl on a little bitty bike barreling full-throttle toward me? She jumped off the bike and into my arms. “You were right, Marmie,” she squealed. “I really can ride a two-wheeler!”
It might not be a miracle, but it’s pretty darn close.
(June 23, 2019)