There were certain milestones I was anxious about my kids reaching; potty training, losing that first tooth, being able to swim... and learning to ride a bike. About a year and a half ago, I took my eldest out for her first lesson in bike riding. It pretty much turned out as it did for the dad in the Berenstain Bears classic story, The Bike Lesson, except the child didn't learn to ride the contraption in the end. She was afraid of falling, naturally, and I went into cardiac arrest running behind her. It was an unfruitful first outing for us, yet the people lucky enough to be watching we're highly entertained, I'm sure.
That bike sat neglected in the backyard for several months. Every once in a while I would ask Julia if she wanted to try again. Not interested. Then the anxieties began. What if my kid doesn't learn how to ride a bike? All kids eventually learn how to. It's a rite of passage. It's a kid's main form of transportation. But what if she doesn't...? Would I be okay with that? I wasn't going to force her to ride her bike, was I? Should this be a "this is for your own good" scenario, or should I allow her to march to her own beat? I think the question I really wanted answered was am I a failure as a dad because I didn't teach my kid to ride a bike? I imagined Julia being 30 years old or so and in a casual conversation someone asks her. "You want to go on a bike ride?" and Julia replies, "I can't. My dad never taught me how." As Calvin once stated, "Egad! Bad dad!"
In the last few days, Julia has had a renewed interest in learning how to master bike riding. We went down to the play ground, and this time, there was no middle aged man chasing behind his frustrated daughter. Instead, I encouraged her to push off the ground with her feet and get used to keeping her balance. Then I suggested she try and pedal. "Not yet," she responded. Okay. It has to be in her timing, so I kept encouraging her, saying she was getting the idea and was on her way. I did the classic parent thing, turned my back for a second, and then I heard Julia call out, "Dad!" I spun around to behold my daughter pedaling, balancing, steering, and not falling to the ground. Yes. Yes, yes, YES!! Now I have dreams of Julia giving her valedictorian speech and starting it with, "After my dad taught me to ride a bike, I knew I could conquer the world."
Or, I dream of her growing up and having a career such as...