When our girl turned four, it was like flipping a switch. Suddenly, she's a grownup. She sleeps in her own bed all night (almost every night). She buckles her own seat belt, though I have to check it for tightness and position. And... last week she decided it was time for her training wheels to come off.
I secretly figured there would be a few days of whining and skinned knees, and then the training wheels would go back on. But apparently I didn't know my little Allyson. She was determined to ride that bike, and she never got discouraged. Instead, she celebrated every milestone, no matter how tiny: when Daddy ran with her for 100 yards, and she pedaled by herself for three feet, she cheered, "I did it!"
Bill worked tirelessly with her for two evenings, during which she seemingly made little progress. Each time he let go of the bike, she immediately put her feet down or rolled up against the edge of the grass. After all that hunched-over running, he complained that his back wasn't cut out for this. Meanwhile, I was happy to just watch and clap from the front porch.
On Wednesday the 16th, however, I got my turn whether I wanted it or not. Allyson and I were meeting my friend Laura and her son Samuel at the park, and Laura phoned to see whether we were bringing her bike.
I answered without thinking, despite the fact that it was already over 90 degrees (32 Celsius) at 10:00 in the morning. "Sure! That's a great idea."
It wasn't until I was wrestling the bike into the trunk that I remembered there were no training wheels. "This will be a disaster," I thought gloomily. "There's no way I'm getting her up on this bike, and she'll be bawling when she sees Samuel zipping along on his training wheels."
At the park, we wheeled the bike between us. I had my purse over my right shoulder and two cheap water bottles clutched under my left armpit, their condensation providing a bit of relief from the sweltering heat. But with the awkwardness of our height difference, I kept getting whacked in the thigh by the handlebars.
We were the first ones there, so that gave us a chance to practice without an audience. I held onto the back of her tiny pink seat and clomped along behind her, waiting for her to gain her balance so I could let go. At that millisecond when the bike stopped swaying, I quietly released my hold... and Allyson immediately put her feet down. "I did it!" she proclaimed, though the wheels had made only a couple revolutions.
This went on for about 15 minutes, as rivulets of sweat coursed down my legs and into my eyes. An elderly man passed by on his walk and smiled at me in sympathy. When I turned to call out a greeting, the bike lurched off the sidewalk and into the grass, nearly throwing Allyson off. "You're not doing it right, Mama!" she complained, and I agreed heartily. "Daddy's much better at this stuff," I whined.
Just then, Laura arrived with her mother and Samuel. Naturally, the first thing Samuel wanted to do was ride bikes. "My bike is super fast!" he said, and tore off down the sidewalk to prove it.
"Help me, Mama. Quick!" Allyson cried, throwing her leg back over the seat. I sighed and gave her a little push. She pushed those pedals with all her might, and I had to let go or be pulled over.
"You're doing it!!" I shouted. She turned back to look at me and then veered into the grass. Laura and I both clapped our hands."You went far!" we exulted.
Allyson muscled the bike back around to face Samuel, who was barreling back down the sidewalk. "Let's try again, Mama!"
I helped her push the bike back onto the sidewalk, and she was off. I didn't even have to run with her. Her back contorted to the left and then the right as she fought to keep her balance. After about 30 feet, she rolled off into the grass--and kept going! She put her feet down just as she was about to collide with a tree.
"You should let her try it in the grass," Laura suggested. "Then she won't be afraid of falling."
She rode around in the grass for a few minutes, careening wherever the bike chose to take her. But she soon discovered that she could go much faster on the pavement. She chased Samuel back and forth, back and forth, cheerful even though she never could catch him. Laura snapped a few photos.
Meanwhile, the elderly man came back around. "Look at you!" he exclaimed. "You're riding."
"I can ride without training wheels," Allyson replied.
"I can ride, too," Samuel interjected. "My bike has extra wheels."
"Why yes, it does," the man answered. "That looks like a very fast bike."
"Yes, see?" Samuel raced down the sidewalk again, with Allyson in distant pursuit.
The kids could have ridden all day, but the adults were ready to get out of the heat after about an hour. We headed over to Chik-Fil-A to enjoy the air conditioning and a few waffle fries.
After dinner that night, Allyson couldn't wait to show her daddy what she could do. I was glad to let Bill help her out while I filmed some video. Because the battery was dead as a doornail, I was tethered to the porch, and my field of vision was pretty limited. Still, hopefully you can get an idea of how cute she looked. This was her fourth run out of about 20....
Since then, Allyson hasn't missed a single night of practicing. After two days of riding, she began to work on starting herself out. It took about two more nights, but she did master it. Now she's fine-tuning her steering--she still terrifies me when she rounds the corner--and stopping.
Tonight I remarked that I couldn't believe how quickly Allyson has learned to ride a bike, and at such a young age. "I was seven when I learned to ride," I said, "and then it was only because Dad threatened to spank me if I didn't ride my new bike."
Bill smirked at me. "She may LOOK just like you, but she does have a little of me in her," he gloated. "I guess she got her athletic abilities from me."
"Yes, she did," I agreed. I'm so glad!