Sunday, November 26, 2006

Over a year and a half ago I gave Daisy her first lesson on how to ride a two-wheeled bike. Then, because I am a totally lame father, we never had another lesson. Her bike sat by our front door, virtually shrinking with each passing day, a daily reminder to me of a job left unfinished.

Last week I turned to Hank and calmly said, "AAAAAAAAAH!!! Daisy is almost seven and a half and she still doesn't know how to ride a bike! Dammit! And now she's even too big for her old bike. I suck!!"

(Note, my new book, "Parenting by Panic", will be available soon!)

Hank told me that Daisy had been admiring some frilly pink bike at Target the other day, but Daisy had also told her, "Mom, I don't think I'm a bike person."

It was time for action. Even though it wasn't her birthday, or Winter Present Tree Day, I could no longer be a parent to a child who couldn't ride a bike. With Thanksgiving's four-day weekend, it was the perfect time to teach her. I left work early on Wednesday and drove straight to Target to buy their pinkest and frilliest bike. Thankfully, pink frilly bikes are cheap.

I showed it to her that evening and she was delighted. The next day, on Thanksgiving morning, we started anew.

Although I live on a narrow and hilly street, there's a short stretch in front of our house that's fairly flat. For our first lesson, I just focused on getting her comfortable with the brakes, and learning how to hop off the bike as it comes to a stop. I promised her that I wouldn't let her fall, so I ran behind her, holding on the seat. After about a dozen times we agreed that I could let go for one or two seconds if she seemed balanced. The whole thing went really well, and wisely I didn't push things too far.

Lesson #2 was on Friday morning and I wanted to focus on getting her a bit more balanced, and then teaching her how to turn. I figured that would be difficult since leaning into a turn might be a bit counter intuitive for someone desperately trying to stay upright. We broke into the poorly secured playground of our neighborhood school for the lesson.

We did a few laps around the blacktop, with me running alongside, doing my best to hang onto the bike without getting in her way. Much to my delight, there was absolutely nothing I had to teach Daisy about turning. She instinctively leaned into the turn, and didn't oversteer with the handlebars. After a few more exhausting laps, it was clear to both of us that I wasn't adding much value on these laps, so I just let go....

Click! The little camera in my brain took a snapshot of her pedaling away from me for the first time. I beamed. This one was one of those moments.

She cruised around the yard a little shakily, but staying upright. I winced every time she got near an obstacle, but she managed to narrowly avoid both the benches and the basketball hoop pole. Apparently my propensity to launch myself into stationary objects isn't hereditary.

"Daisy, I knew you'd be good at this, but you're even better than I thought you'd be. I'm really proud of you." I declared, leaving out the part where I also complimented myself for somehow not screwing this up.

"Thanks, dad. I'm proud too."

The next thing to teach her was how to get going by herself. I had been balancing the bike and pushing her forward each time. So, I taught her how to position the pedals, and then stand, straddling the bike, with one foot on the ground, and one foot on a raised pedal, and then push off while beginning to pedal. We practiced this a few times, but it wasn't easy.

"I think this is the hardest part of riding a bike," I offered.

"Can we skip this part for now?" she asked. "Maybe you could teach me something else instead?"

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"Daisy, there is nothing else to teach you. This is the very last thing. You already know how to do everything else. You can balance, you can turn, and you can stop. If you learn this, then you're done learning how to ride a bike."

Her jaw dropped.

"Really?" she asked incredulously. "This is it?"

"Yep."

We practiced a few more times with increasing skill. She got it right once or twice, but it was definitely the hardest part for her.

I called Hank on the phone and suggested that she take a break from her chores and come down to see Daisy's progress on the bike. I was deliberately vague about how well Daisy was doing.

While Hank was on the way, I had Daisy practice some figure 8's and some tight turns. She was doing laps around the yard when Hank arrived. Hank peered around for a second, seemingly wondering why I wasn't alongside Daisy. Then she spotted her.

"Oh my gosh! Daisy! You're RIDING YOUR BIKE!"

"I know, momma!" Daisy yelled from across the yard.

For the next 20 minutes or so, Hank and I sat on a bench in the sun, watching Daisy ride her bike around. Daisy has always been a careful child, and she approached the bike riding the same way. We watched her incrementally trying slightly tigher turns, and going slightly faster. Throughout the entire session she wore a serene and proud smile.

All in all, I had a pretty good Thanksgiving weekend, but this was the very best part. That night in bed, Hank said to me, "Today was a good day. You should write about it."

I looked at the clock.

"It's 11:41, babe. The day ain't over yet. Bad stuff could still happen."

She was right though. It had been a good day. Dolface knew I'd have one eventually.


14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Daisy rocks _and_ rolls!

--Pablo

Seamus said...

Perhaps instead of Winter Tree Present Day or whatever you call it, you can have Daisy Bike Riding + Tree Day and hand out congratulatory gifts.

The timing isn't quite right, but it's not nearly as arbitrary.

Velvet Sacks said...

Good for Daisy! And for you, too. Even though the old bike was right there, tempting you, you waited until you knew Daisy was ready, thus assuring her success. Excellent parenting!

The 4th Sister said...

Not only do you need to write about it but print it off and keep it for her...It is really hard for me to take when you do something good.....I'm glad this is as sappy as your posts get....I am about to cry even at this one....GOOD JOB DAD!!!....Finally Hank did not have to do it all....

zelda1 said...

A huge milestone in Daisy's life. She will always remember being taught to ride her new bike. I say write it and print it and keep it for her.

Mike said...

Pablo, actually I'm not sure about the rock part. You saw her dancing to High School Musical. Rocking? Hmmmm.

Seamus, what's arbitrary about Winter Present Tree Day. It happens in Winter, we have presents and a tree, and it's a day. Frankly, I defy you to find a less arbitrarily named holiday.

VS, you've put a nice spin on this, implying that I waited because she wasn't ready. That ain't it though. She was ready a year and a half ago when we had the first lessson. I just dropped the ball.

4th Sister and Zelda1, you guys are big saps. :) Also, PRINT something out? You think there will be paper in the future? Nah, this blog is the record of choice.

Velvet Sacks said...

Mike, I got it. My comment was just what you said -- a nice spin on it -- in case you needed one to salve your conscience.

The Tart said...

YOU are a 4 star dad, natch!

Loved the video & those streamers on her handle bars ... those were the days.

Smooch,
The Tart
; )

mox said...

Awesome. My kid just learned to ride recently, too. It's the best feeling in the world when they learn a new skill.

My kid also has learned how to wipe out rather spectacularly, as well.

Mike said...

VS, sorry, I'm slow.

Tart, yeah, streamers on the handlebars, and what you can't see well in the video is that there's a purse-like bag on the front of the handlebars too. Daisy had placed 2 small stuffed animals in for the ride.

Mox, Daisy has had a couple of good spills. She rode around in the park on Saturday. I looked away for 5 seconds, looked back, and there she was lying in the bushes.

Kat said...

Mike, you're a hero! Great job teaching Daisy to ride her bike, she will never forget that day, and her Dad who never gave up.

Mike said...

Kat, she might not remember the year and a half of inaction, but I won't forget it. Thanks though. :)

tinyhands said...

I watched the video expecting a Jackass-esque flip over the handlebars (because the video was hosted at YouTube) but I'm glad to be disappointed.

*sigh* You and your ideal nuclear family...

Mike said...

Tiny, Daisy did have a couple of good spills later that weekend. One into a bush, and another cool slo-mo crash into a parked car, but I didn't have the video going for those.

My skills as a videographer are even worse than my fathering skills.