My daughter is tough. In mind, body and spirit. Some days I consider this a blessing, others a curse. This toughness is coming in handy as she’s learning to ride her bike.
She’s almost nine, so she’s past the age when all the other kids in the neighborhood are pretty much riding circles around her. But experience has shown—she’ll do it when she’s ready, and not one second before.
This was the case with potty training (don’t tell her I told you), and there was a good, solid year when the only thing that saved me from dissolving into tears on a daily basis was the wisdom of friends (who told me “she won’t start Kindergarten in diapers!” and for the record, she didn’t. Barely.) plus hugs (given and received), stickers (for her) and cookies (for me). Possibly also wine (also for me).
I try to keep this in mind as I’m taking turns with my husband, running down the sidewalk in a crouch, using all of the ammunition in our parenting arsenal to motivate her to keep going … eyes up, not down; sit tall, don’t lean; keep your feet on the pedals or you’ll … whoops. Yes, you’ll fall.
And fall she did, quite spectacularly. That toughness comes in handy, because this girl charges at life, giving it 100% and then some. So when she got going on her bike, rode over the little grass easement and curb and into the empty street and (you know where this is going), bang, on her hands and knees on the asphalt. It wasn’t pretty. It was loud and painful.
So we carried her back to the house. Her brother brought her bike back to the house. I stopped the bleeding and showed her that yes, it hurt and yes it was bleeding an awful lot and yes, I know—it was just a scrape, and it would be the first of many.
And how had she gotten this far with only one scrape to show for it at almost nine years old? Then we were off and running with stories of our own war wounds, self-inflicted pains at the hands of friends and siblings and bikes and skateboards and tree-climbing that resulted in pulling gravel out of a giant scrape with tweezers when daddy was little and the giant, red scrapes I had on my knees and chin for our family Easter pictures one year when I was a kid. We laughed. She laughed.
And then she got back on the bike.
“Who’s the boss?” I asked her as I helped her strap on her helmet and showed her how to hold the handlebars steady.
“I’m the boss,” she said quietly.
“Who’s the boss? Say it like you mean it.”
She looked up at me, determined and just a little scared but mostly stubborn. And ready. “I am.”
Let’s do this.