Life Milestone: Learning to ride a bike

When I wrote about Christopher’s birthday, I alluded to our disastrous experience trying to teach Christopher to ride his bike. I’m finally ready to share the full story.

Two years ago I bought Christopher a used bike with training wheels for his 4th birthday. It’s been challenging for him to ride because it’s an older bike, and it’s very heavy. I decided that if we were going to teach Christopher to ride without training wheels, he’d need a new bike. Almost everyone we know with young kids has already taught them to ride without training wheels, so I was feeling like we were behind schedule, even though I didn’t learn until I was about 8 or 9. (I know I shouldn’t compare myself to other parents, but it’s so hard!)

I told Christopher that we were going to buy him a new bike for his birthday because I wanted him to pick it out. The Saturday before his birthday, we went to Toys R Us and let him pick out a bike. He selected a cool green one, which of course had training wheels in the store, so he was able to try it out. Jim spent Saturday afternoon/evening putting it together. We decided to wait until Sunday afternoon, after his party, to try riding it because by the time it was put together, it was getting pretty late.

Sunday afternoon we pretty much had to force Christopher to go with us to an empty parking lot to learn to ride the bike. We live on a small cul-de-sac, but we decided a larger parking lot would be a better place to start. The locale ended up being pretty good. Our child…not so much.

Clearly he had a little anxiety about the experience since he was not at all enthusiastic about going. We probably should have known better than to try on a day that already had so much excitement, but I didn’t want to have to wait for the following weekend, and the weather was cooperating for once.

We drive up to the park. Right away we discovered that the bike probably needed to be tightened a little bit more, and Jim hadn’t brought the right tools, but we tried anyway. We started with holding onto the back of his seat (even though everything I read online before going had suggested starting with just balancing or riding downhill on grass). This was the way both Jim and I had learned, and we recalled it being a pretty simple process. Wrong!

Christopher does not do well with failure. He gets that from me. It’s why I don’t play video games. I don’t like doing things I am bad at. Jim is not this way (and he’s great at everything he does), so he wasn’t quite as understanding. There was A LOT of yelling.

Christopher yelled at us to stop telling him what to do. Jim yelled at Christopher to stop yelling at us. Christopher yelled about the bike not steering the way that he thought it should. I yelled at Jim to stop yelling at Christopher. It was awful. Not the happy learning-to-ride-a-bike experience I had envisioned or wanted Christopher to remember.

Jim ended up leaving for a little bit to go get new tools. I didn’t have any better luck with him gone. We eventually tried having Christopher ride the bike more like a scooter to get a sense of his balance, but we didn’t take the pedals off, so that was really hard for him to do. We realized that he had learned some bad behavior from the training wheels, like leaning to the side when riding and not balancing his body weight.

After about 30 minutes, we gave up. We were all pretty upset as we drove home.

Monday morning I realized that maybe Christopher was like me, and that he might be more receptive to learning from books versus being told how to do it. So I went online and found a few book suggestions, and I reserved them from the library. They came in a few days later.

We read Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bike, and it was cute, but not especially helpful. We never read the other books.

The bike sat in the garage for several weeks, except for one brief occasion when Jim got Christopher to try riding it like a scooter again. This time without the pedals.

And then…this past Wednesday night while I was at my YA Book Club meeting, Jim did it! He taught Christopher to ride his bike. When I asked him about it later that night, he said it went about the same until he got Christopher to coast down the middle of the cul-de-sac a couple of times, seeing how far he could go while lifting his feet up. Then he tried holding the seat again and taking him around the circle, and he got it on the second try. It just clicked, finally.

Jim texted me this video. And I was so happy he could do it!

(And I was so relieved I didn’t have to try to teach him again.)

Thursday night immediately after getting home from school, he was outside riding around in the circle on his own (without even telling me he was going outside). Clearly, he’s pretty proud of himself; as he should be. I watched him through the window with a smile on my face, as I talked to my mom on the phone.

I’m so excited!

Another life milestone down for our little man.

How old were you when you learned to ride a bike? How about your kids? How did you teach your children? Are they better learners than Christopher?

Last year on the blog…

My love affair with my crock pot

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  1. Hurrah for Christopher! Learning to ride a bike is such a good life skill no matter how awkward the instruction. I think if you asked a 100 set of parents about their experiences teaching their kid(s) to ride you'd get 100 different answers.

    I learned how to ride in the 1970s, a quaint time with no helmets and my dad sort of jogging along side me with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth blowing smoke in my face. Ah the memories.

    1. Haha. My memory is pretty similar, although no cigarette. We rode our bikes a lot this weekend. Christopher is so proud of himself still, and he really wants to ride around the neighborhood alone. I think he needs a little more practice and leg strength. He struggled with the hills. Another couple weeks, and he'll be off on his own.

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