I had just parked my bike at Giant Eagle and was beginning a short walk around the block to call my friend who needed to talk to me about her irritating boss. I had a couple of minutes before I had to relieve Megan, our sitter. As I looked down at my phone to dial my friend’s number, a text message popped up from Megan.
“She’s riding!” is all it said with a video attached.
I opened it up with much anticipation, and there she was. My 6 year-old girl on her new two-wheel, no training wheels bike gingerly riding up our street. Without hesitation, the tears formed in my eyes and began to fall. Memories flooded my mind… Maria as a newborn in her bouncy seat sleeping in the sun; Maria at age 1 holding on to the edge of the sofa as she felt those chunky gorgeous thighs moving across the floor; Maria at age 2 clinging on to me as people tried to hold her; Maria at age 3 eating spaghetti and meatballs with a full red-sauced face; Maria at age 4 playing dress-up with her pre-school friends; Maria at age 5 entering kindergarten and already seeming so grown up.
And now look at her – she is practically an adult riding that bike so well down the street. It all started late last week when she got an invitation from her friend, Riley to attend her birthday party at a local park. The picture on the birthday card showed Riley riding a two-wheeled bike. The invitation stated “Come ride your bike with Riley around the park!” Maria looked down at the floor and walked away as I read the invite.
“What’s wrong, baby?” I asked her.
“I can’t ride a two-wheeled bike, mom. They will make fun of me if I have a bike with training wheels.”
I explained to her that she is good at lots of things and although some friends may be able to ride a two-wheeled bike, they can’t do certain things as well as she is able do them. Everyone has their strengths and their challenges. Biking on a two-wheeled bike was her challenge at this time. She seemed to get it and started to name things that she did well – rock climbing, taking care of babies, artwork. She had tried to ride her friend’s bike a few weeks ago and it was a challenge to say the least. She just did not seem to have that innate ability to balance. I had read in the magazines about starting your child off on a bike with no wheels so they have to balance back and forth as they go down the sidewalk but Maria has had her training wheel princess bike since the age of 3 and has always done great with it so we never rocked the boat with a no pedal bike.
Another factor is that my baby girl is not naturally athletic. She struggles to hit the baseball or strike a golf ball or hop on one leg and then the next. I worried that she would not easily pick up the skill of riding a two-wheeled bike because of that fact. But what Maria lacks in natural athleticism, she makes up for in will. She tries anything (i.e., scaling a hand-made boulder at the summer festival and ringing the bell at the top) and she continues to try even if she fails the first time (it took her a few tries to get to the top of the boulder and ring that bell). As much as her strong-willed personality can get on my nerves (i.e., refusing to brush her hair), I thank the stars for it.
I scoped out bikes on Tuesday morning at the local used goods store and found a 20 inch one. We had tried that size before and found that it was just a tad bit too big for her. Her 16 inch bike, however, is way too small for her (her poor knees stick out on both sides like ears). We really need an 18 inch bike but they are hard to find. I wanted Maria to try the bike out before I bought it so I asked our insanely awesome babysitter, Megan, to take her down to the used goods store after school and buy it if she looked like she could at least begin to try to ride it. Of course Maria liked it (I knew she would – it could have been black and had skulls all over it and she would have liked it because it was something new). Mario also found a bike that was red with black flames. He needed a bike, too and his was half off so I approved for Megan to buy them both.
I texted Megan later that afternoon and kiddingly asked “Is Maria riding on her own yet?” Megan texted back “Haha, she is trying….” Two days later, here she is riding on her own. She still needs help starting up because the bike is too big for her to swing her foot over and start to peddle. She also continues to work on braking and dismounting. She frequently stops pedaling and takes a leap off the bike into the grass but if she concentrates enough, she can brake and then get her leg over the bike quick enough to have a fairly graceful dismount. I am amazed at her progress. I can’t imagine what I will be like when she wins the Science Fair or places in the swim meet or gets an A+ on an English essay.
Thank you for the gift you gave me tonight, Maria. You are one strong, willful girl and you rock it out. Your mama is so proud.