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Like Riding a Bike...Almost.
After a childhood spent watching “The Wonder Years” and “The Cosby Show,” I naively looked forward to the day that I would teach my child to ride a bicycle. I could picture it so clearly. The sun would be shining, and the grass would be the perfect green to compliment the azure blue of the sky. I’d take pictures of my son proudly straddling his bike; triumphantly grinning at me as we basked in the afterglow of learning to ride. He’d have a Band-Aid on his knee from a little fall, but he’d be so proud. It would be a beautiful mother-son bonding experience and I, for one, couldn’t wait.
Damn you 80s sitcoms.
Here’s how it really went down. All the way to the park we discussed how it was not going to be easy; that he would fail a lot before he would succeed; that he would feel frustrated, and that would be okay. We talked about positive attitude and giving it a go. I was like a motivational speaker on crack.
At the park, Little Man got on his bike, helmet on, face set in determination. I held the front handlebar and the seat, and calmly explained that I wouldn’t let him fall. I was all Mother Theresa kind and caring. I was the picture on the front of the parenting books.
Until we started.
One push, a giant wobble, arms and legs everywhere, and both of us on either side of the bike path. Of course, the bike was on top of him. Of course. And the tears started. And the wailing–like a fire engine.
MotherTheresaMama helped him up, wiped the tears and got him back on the bike. He was not interested. No more. Not doing it. After only one try and one go. I think this was the point at which I crossed over to the dark side.
MotherTheresaMama disappeared and was swiftly replaced with DarthMother. I looked him in the eye and strongly told him he WAS getting on the bike and he WAS going to try again. I gave him the whole “you are strong and you can do this!” speech, and he got on again. This time the grimace was less determination and more “I hate you, Mum.”
I swore up and down he wouldn’t fall again. And then the fun began. In order to keep this ridiculous promise I had to hold the seat AND the handlebars and run alongside him. I ran up and down that park bent in half, yelling like a crazed maniac at my poor, terrified child. Every time he wanted to give up I yelled more. I might have even threatened to take the bike back to the bike shop if he gave up. Retrospectively, a sucky move. He wailed that he was going to fall, and I yelled that he wasn’t and that he must NOT stop pedaling.
A group of bemused mothers sat calmly watching their kids in the playground, enjoying the serenity punctuated by my banshee-style screeching. They cheered every time we went past, followed by giggles at my expense because- OH EM GEE -I must have looked ridiculous.
You’re waiting for that happy ending now, aren’t you? The part where the titles roll and we see a happy montage of my son riding, wobbly and unsure, off into the sunset. Okay – there’s good news and bad news: The good news is that I swear I lost 5 kgs that day. The bad news is that he didn’t learn how to ride that damn bike. Not even close. And I was not a nice, reassuring mum, I was a yelling tyrant. Good one, Mum. I phoned Hubby and told him to come home early to try and teach Little Man because, clearly, my bike riding instruction sucks.
He came home and gave it a go. He was remarkably calm and reassuring. Not like me–bad mama. But, still no go. That bike was in no way staying upright. Next day, back on the bike and more of the same: little bits of calm teaching from Dad and large chunks of commando-style yelling from me. Anyone who knows me wouldn’t believe this because I am generally a really easy-going, calm and mother-earthy person. Apparently, teaching a kid to ride a bike is all it takes to cross me over to the dark side.
Finally, Little Man did it. Two long, hard, sweaty days of bloody hard work and parental suckiness and he did it. The look on his face was priceless.
At the end of his first long day riding solo, he came up to me, hugged me tight and told me I am the best Mummy he’s ever had. It’s only fair, really. I have forgotten the pain of childbirth, and he has forgotten his Mum, the psycho bike riding instructor. Happily ever after, after all.
Have your own learning to ride a bike story to share?
Michelle is a copywriter, artist and mum of three children under ten. Read more of Michelle’s work at They Call Me Mummy.