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Spring Tradition


Spring is finally in the air! The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and it is time for a family tradition we like to call “learning to ride the bike”. If this does not seem like it would necessarily fit into the category of a tradition, allow me to clarify. Little Man first learned to ride his balance bike when he was three. After having watched the girls react, in their day, to the removal of their training wheels as if they were undergoing the actual physical amputation of a limb, we decided against ever having the TW words be a part of Little Man’s bicycling experience.

In no time at all, he was zipping down the driveway and scooting along the sidewalk after The Sisters (as he lovingly calls them), feet held high. We felt this to be a clear indication that he was ready to kick things up a notch and try a bike with pedals. By the end of that summer he had pedaled confidently a short distance down the sidewalk. The moment was captured on film, duly celebrated, and we were basking in our victory. The season ended, snowshoes and sleds replaced wheels, and the bikes were packed away. The End…or so we thought.

The next season (at age 4) we rolled out the bikes, got everyone’s tires properly inflated, checked gears, and prepared to lengthen Little Man’s biking distances…visions of family bike path excursions dancing in our heads.

“Ready to get back on the bike, Buddy?” I asked excitedly, presenting him with his freshly tuned bicycle.

“I don’t know how to ride a bike,” he declared.

“You learned how to ride your bike last year…remember?” I gently prodded.

“I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never rode that bike. Where is my balance bike?” he insisted.

Ah ha! I thought to myself. Now I’ve got you! I whipped out my cell phone and scrolled back to the footage from the previous year that had been sent out to two sets of proud grandparents…across the country and across the ocean.

He watched the video of himself riding down the sidewalk in front of our home, a little wobbly at first..then more steadily, while I scanned his face for signs of recognition. He took the whole thing in stone-faced. Obviously, a future poker player, I observed mentally. But there was no denying the evidence!

“That’s not me,” he declared and walked away, leaving me to gather my bottom jaw off the garage floor.

Ok, I thought, realizing that the nut would be a smidge harder to crack than first anticipated, future politician?

He spent the season reluctantly re-learning how to ride the bike…which was somewhat painful given the time and effort spent the year before. Once again, between summer trips, camps, and sisters’ soccer and softball games, we finally had him pretty comfortable on the bike (and had the videos to prove it…as if that would do us any good). School started with all of its activities and before we knew it, it was once again time to put the bikes away.

Another year rolled by, and out came the bikes…followed by Little Man’s selective amnesia. And so the pattern has gone for almost four years and three bicycles now…thereby qualifying it in my mind as a tradition.

Now he is seven and we are determined to substitute this tradition with a new one called “riding bikes as a family”. So, on one of the first nice sunny warm days of this spring, I brought up the subject of the bicycle and how nice it will be to ride all together.

“Bicycles are dangerous,” Little Man asserted.

“Well, Sweetie,” I explained, “lots of things can be dangerous if you aren’t careful and we are going to be really careful and wear helmets.”

Without missing a beat, he added, “and do you know what the most dangerous thing is?”

“What is the most dangerous thing?” I asked, taking the bait, hook line and sinker.

“Cows,” he answered gravely, “and bulls are THE most dangerous because they flip people off.”

After forcefully banishing the image of a bull flipping the bird and acknowledging to myself that he had meant rodeo style, I silently shifted into strategizing mode. Well played, I conceded mentally. Redirection AND fear mongering! There may very well be a political career in your future.

The next time the subject came up, I talked about rides over to the school playground and down to visit his friends. “If you want to get from point A to point B quickly, riding your bike will be the best way without polluting the air,” I explained.

He thought this over for a few minutes and decided. “I have already been to point B. I think I want to go to point Z.”

So, though he is clearly not thrilled (perhaps a bit of an understatement) with the idea of learning to ride the bike again, this time he seems to be much more receptive to the actual and eventual riding of the bike…a definite step in the right direction. The moral being: learning to do new things isn’t of much use (and that new knowledge can be quite frail, I might add) if one does not then do those things with some consistency.

Oh…and if you come across me trying to resume an activity after a significant span of time has passed, and I seem to need encouragement, please do not tell me “it’s like riding a bike”.

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