I thought my oldest daughter would never learn to ride a bike without training wheels. Her younger sisters were tackling hills and getting adventurous on their own bicycles. My firstborn had started to talk about bike riding in absolutes, "I can't ride a bike," she'd tell people matter-of-factly.
I was worried. Would she learn that you should quit when something doesn't come naturally? Would she start to be embarrassed among her friends if she never learned to ride? Was there really a chance that she just didn't have enough coordination to bike ride? Surely not. She could throw a lacrosse ball, do a handstand, flip on the trampoline, and kick a soccer ball. She wasn't athletically-challenged, that much was clear. Why did this basic skill seem to elude her?
I was also extremely frustrated as a parent. She shunned my attempts to help her. She got irritated every single time I offered the smallest bit of advice. She didn't want, or think she needed, her mom. As frustrated as I was, I suppose the underlying emotion was heartbreak. She was growing up and didn't think I had all of the answers. Was this a sign of things to come?
I was experiencing all these emotions when we pulled out the bikes over the weekend. She left hers on the sideline, preferring her scooter, while her younger sisters careened down the street. I encouraged her to go give it a try. She rolled her eyes, but she did put the scooter down and head over to her bicycle. It was a small victory.
Again and again she tried to ride, falling into the grass, our quiet street (thank goodness for her helmet), and occasionally standing up, kicking her bike wheel, and stomping off in frustration. I walked over to try to help. "No," she said, occasionally through tears. "But if you just do this, then you…," but she'd scream in frustration at my attempts to offer advice. I stood on the sideline in a huff, irritated at her behavior but not wanting to discourage her from trying on her own.
As a mother, it was hard to watch her falling, frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged. It's my job to protect her and to teach her. She didn't want my help. I nursed my bruised ego and watched her try, and fail, again and again.
Every once in awhile, my eyes got wide with hope when I noticed that she hadn't fallen down yet, had managed to get herself started, or managed to ride for a bit without falling. Though I wanted (more than anything) to shout out suggestions on ways she could improve, I kept the words to myself. Instead, I shouted, "Great one! You've almost got it," or "So close! Way to go!"
I was chatting with a neighbor, watching out of the corner of my eye, when I noticed that she'd all but stopped falling. She was doing it. She'd taught herself something in an afternoon that I couldn't manage to teach her in a year's worth of attempts.
"Mom! Did you see that?" she asked, breathless. "I wanted to teach myself to do it because when you teach yourself it's even better than someone showing you how to do it!"
I smiled at my insightful daughter as she rode off down the street, practicing her newfound skill. I'm not sure what I'm prouder of--the fact that she finally did it, the fact that she did it all on her own, the fact that she learned such a valuable life lesson in the process, or the fact that I learned how to encourage her in the way she needed. I suppose I'm proud of it all.Content by Kelly Herdrich .