Each time we’d try to take my Oldest out for bike riding lessons, she’s been a fountain of anti-enthusiasm, always psyching herself out with excuses (a partial list):
- Seat too high/too low.
- The terrain’s bumpy/too smooth.
- It’s windy/rainy/partly sunny/too hot/too cold/perfect weather for doing something completely different.
- Tired from staying up until 11:30 pm reading The Comedy of Errors/The Tempest/Septimus Heap/American Girl series
- Need to attend to a bodily function right now
- Solar Cycle 24
- Bicycles are evidence of the vast shadow conspiracy of the unfun Grown-ups, Illuminati, and Java programmers
Nudging only escalated the unpleasantness to the point that I was dreading spending a perfectly good weekend taking her out. But with summer nearly over, and feeling the double-shot of Bad Parent Guilt that I ride thousands of miles a year but my kid hasn’t learned the basics, I was motivated to try again.
Saturday afternoon, we’d gone to Marymoor park, hoping to use the “paved field” at Marymoor park next to where the Cricket (!) players practice. The lot had been taken over by a Cross-Fit meeting of some form. That actually worked out for the better as we ended up in an empty, very dry field across from the RC airplane (!!) section. We had the squishy surface to ourselves.
The deal was we’d be there until park closure or she could do two full revolutions of the crank. She agreed to humor me. It wasn’t pretty, but she eventually did two wobbly revolutions and left pleased with herself. As I was putting the bike on the car, she declared tomorrow she’d do five.
When I got home, The Youngest was anxious to get out and do some riding. I took her over to Preston, where there’s a nicely-paved, two mile trail with very little traffic. We did the out-and-back. She’d spied a new trail, so we wandered towards the front of the Sanmar building, checking out the statues: a pig from the centennial celebration of Pike Place market, a pachyderm, and the horse. All told, 5.5 miles including two miles of 2 – 3% elevation gain. She’s oh-so-wobbly on the uphill, but had such a good attitude.
Sunday, I had both kids. The first minute of riding on the grass was a challenge to The Youngest, but then she got bored and asked what harder things we had available. I reconsidered suggesting pacelining in the velodrome or “try riding without hands,” instead pointing her in the direction of a paved field. I thought walk over there in a half hour, but when I turned back around, she was halfway across the 3/4 mile field, a gravel drain, paved trail, and then the paved area.
The Oldest was taking wind measurements, calculating flux, and experimenting with various bicycle alignments – basically psyching herself up. She didn’t want me to watch or speak while she was concentrating. I zoned out, staring off into the horizon, checking out the different bikes and bikers riding by. Then, finally:
Her: “Was that five?” Me: [making zipper on the mouth gesture] “I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.“
She did it again – seven revolutions.
Me: “No, definitely not five.” [waiting] “OMG, you did it!”
High-fives were exchanged. She insisted she try some more. 17 revolutions. The light clicked on and she declared was having fun.
Me: “Who are you and what have you done with my daughter?“
We worked across the field, pausing at the gravel drainage area. In previous outings, the bad Feng Shui would have been enough to call it a day. But then she rode across it. Her sister, bored from being alone, had rolled up and was cheering, too.
An hour and a half later, I finally persuaded them we should go eat dinner.