Friday, May 18, 2007

Easy Rider

A.J. has been wanting badly to learn to ride his bike. Most of his friends are bike-riding fiends, circling around in the neighborhood driveways like junior Hell’s Angels. But something has been holding A.J. back. We’ve tried training wheels and coasting down hills to learn how to balance and putting the seat way down so he would feel safe close to the ground. But, no matter what, he tells himself he can’t do it, and so he doesn’t.

But today he did it. He rode his bike on his own.

The last few mornings we’ve been going out to try riding his bike and I’ve been getting him started and running alongside him holding on lightly to the handlebar. (He made me promise that I would not let go.) And today, I could feel that he was doing all the balancing himself. And so I told him that he was really already riding his bike himself and that I was going to let go for a few seconds.

I expected him to scream, “No!” But he didn’t. He just kept pedaling, concentrating hard. And I let go, and off he went. In a few seconds he had left me behind.

It was a wonderful thing to see, and I felt proud and relieved. But I also couldn’t help thinking of all the times I’ve seen this moment portrayed in TV shows and commercials, and I had to wonder if we looked like the fathers and sons on TV.

Oh, just once to have an unmediated experience.

Anyway, A.J. was extremely excited and proud of himself, which I could tell because he was trying hard not to look too excited and proud of himself. When he got off the bike, I gave him a huge hug and then we went home to show his mom his new trick. And to celebrate: a chocolate donut with sprinkles at Dunkin’ Donuts, of course.

Afterward, he wanted to talk about what he’d learned.

“Riding by yourself is the best,” he said. “Training wheels are bad, riding with your dad holding on is a little better, but riding by yourself is the best.”

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