We are all so obviously on our own timelines, but it’s sometimes difficult to know when to jump in as a parent, and when to let my children embrace their timelines.
One of my children has simply refused to learn to ride a bike. But he’s not 5, 6, or 7. He’s significantly older. And his friends ride everywhere around the yishuv, leaving him to decide to sit in the house or walk places.
And he hates to walk.
So, we’ve spent a few years now encouraging him, asking him….ok begging him…to learn to ride a bike. He’s a very cautious child and not one who is particularly energetic. Together, those traits mean that he doesn’t want to jump on a bike, splat onto the pavement and try again. He either wants something to come easily or not to come at all.
But all of our pushing, prodding and pleading has gotten us nowhere. And so we have backed off, conceding that perhaps this child won’t learn to ride a bike. Perhaps we won’t ever sign up for one of those tours where we all jump on bikes and go somewhere. Perhaps he’ll simply be a walker.
And as we attempted to make peace with that, today happened.
Today, I took my four younger kids to the bike riding place in the yishuv. And his younger brother chugged up the hill on his bike and then biked around for a bit before dropping the bike to do something else. And none of us were watching when anti-bike boy quietly got on the bike…and rode away.
I did not see him get on the bike and I didn’t notice him until he yelled, “Mommy!!!!!!!! Look at me!” and there he was, riding straight across the bike path.
He continued to ride for half an hour or so, starting to learn to steer, to get on and off the bike and to stay up. I didn’t run behind the bike or stand by him or do anything physically as we usually do to help a child. It was just anti-bike boy, showing himself and the rest of us that he can do what he sets his mind to – in his time.
We definitely have to push our children at times. If they don’t know how to swim, we must teach them. If they are having trouble in school, we must find them ways to succeed (or different schools to attend), but when it comes to the little milestones, it is truly hard to know when to push and when to back off.
We’ve been working very hard with this child on self esteem, and I’m pretty sure that this experience wasn’t about learning to ride a bike. Last spring he had the biking techniques down; he simply refused to get on the bike and risk falling off.
And now, with increased self esteem and a desire to push himself (rather than having us push him), he got on the bike and rode. And the look of accomplishment on his face said it all.
And then, tonight when he came home from tutoring, he walked in and declared “Mister Learned How to Ride a Bike has returned home.”
Priceless. Totally priceless..even if it did come three years later than what our timeline dictated.