Monday, August 22, 2011

Learning To Ride

It's a right-of-passage...learning to ride a bike.  Every kid goes through it at some time.  It creates a new sense of independence and freedom for them, opening up all kinds of possibilities.  It's a feat we have undertaken this weekend.

Squirrel's been riding a hand-me-down bike all summer.  It's too small for her (her knees touch the handlebars) and it has training wheels on it still.  She didn't care--I only let them ride up and down our street, so it's not like she was flying around town on it or anything.  She didn't care--until she had a friend from school over to play, and her friend said that she learned to ride a bike in Kindergarten.  She didn't care--until the neighbor across the street, who's two years younger, learned to ride this summer.  So now, she cares.  She wants to learn to ride without training wheels.

Some people say we should've pressed this issue years ago.  Most kids lose the training wheels well before they are nine years old.  But Squirrel's not most kids.  She has a lot of trouble with balance and coordination--which bike riding requires a lot of!  She has a low frustration-tolerance threshold and gives up very easily.  She is strong-willed and defiant much of the time, so it's hard to teach her something new.  I'll admit--we didn't push the issue partially because we didn't want to teach her.  But we also didn't push it because she lacks the skills to be successful in the typical ways.

But...she wants to learn to ride a bike, and so I have taken it upon myself to teach her.  We bought a new bike with garage sale earnings (she sold a lot of toys to buy herself a new bike!)  She picked one that was green and black with orange tire rims--no girly pink or purple thing for her.  It's a sharp little bike, and she wants to ride it so bad.

We've tried a lot in the past few days.  We go outside for 20 minutes at a time--she doesn't tolerate longer periods, and I find myself trying really hard not to snap at her for the way she's expressing her frustration at me.  20 minutes is enough for each try.  She's not making much progress--I've let go of her for five, six, seven seconds, but she always falls.  She just doesn't understand how to balance her body.  She leans to one side, but she doesn't realize she's doing it.  She slides sideways on the seat, but doesn't feel that she's crooked.  She forgets to steer when she pedals, and forgets to pedal when she steers, and can't figure out the brake at all!

I've explained to her what to do.  I've shown her what to do.  I've pointed out her stiff elbows, and her leaning body, and her bottom in the wrong position.  We've watched you tube videos about how to ride.  The neighbor girl gave her pointers.  Daddy took a shot at helping her.  The thing is, you can't really explain to someone how to ride a bike--you just have to feel it for yourself.  The proper tension in your arms.  The curve of your elbows.  The movement of the handlebars in relation to the balance of your body.  These things can't be taught, they are just learned.

She will learn this.  It may take her longer than it takes most kids.  She will probably fall a lot more, and feel more frustration, and want to give up more times than your typical kid.  But when Squirrel puts her mind to something, she figures out how to do it, and I know this will be no exception.  I hate watching her struggle more than other kids do.  But I've seen her struggle before, and I know she'll make it.  And come out stronger and more self-confident for the extra work she endured.  She's a tough girl.  She'll make this right-of-passage and be pedaling around the block before we know it!

Then I can move on to worrying about the next thing.  Like how she fails to notice cars pulling in and out of driveways on her way around the block. (*gulp*)

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