Sunday, March 21, 2010

Oops isn't bad

Major milestone for my 7-year-old this weekend: she rode her bike without training wheels.

Here she is.

Of course, this happening cements my status as a card-carrying member of the Run-behind-your-kid-while-she's-learning-to-ride-a-bike,-let-go-and-pray-that-she makes-it Club. Despite the existence of many other, "developmentally friendlier" methods for teaching kids...I failed at everything but the method my grandfather chose for me. Biking on grass, rolling down a hill, pedals off the bike all failed. Crazy, eh?

The older my kids get, the more I am struck by the fact that I can beam for my child in a way that I cannot for anything I do. Sounds dumb and obvious, I know, but I *GET* what my mother means when she says she's my biggest fan club; I am glowing for Charlotte's success, just as I ached for her frustration with the bike, and for her struggle to defeat her own inner demons of "Need for Perfection" and "Fear of Falling."

The low point for this little girl fell around last summer. It went something like this:

Friend:(whizzing by on bicycle without training wheels) Hi Charlotte. Hey, is that your bike? You STILL have training wheels?
Charlotte: (looking embarrassed...standing next to her brand new bike that I was getting ready for her) Uh, no, it's my sister's.
Friend: Yeah, it is kind of babyish.

Watching your kid fib because of her shame, lying to a girl who we've come to understand sometimes puts Charlotte down as a "first-grader" (the girl is 1 grade ahead) takes sad to another level. Maintaining good self-control, I packaged the "friend" securely into a Large UPS box and waited for the next UFO bound for Jupiter. 3 Day Select, of course - Next Day Air is pricey.

So...watching her tear-streaked face yesterday as we tried yet another "better" method for learning to ride a bike, I consciously switched (like in "Over the Top," for those needing a Sly Stallone, cheesy 80s reference) to "re-framing mode." I think I might have channeled T. Berry Brazelton, since my own ability to stay 100% positive pales in comparison (sometimes) to that of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Maybe worse. Sometimes.

Charlotte: (crying) I CAN'T DO IT, Daddy! I'm scared. I hate my bike.
Me: But sweetie, you just did it a little bit. Didn't you feel it?
Charlotte: No.
Me: Sure you did. There was a tiny little time where I let go and you did it by yourself. (accentuating the positive).
Charlotte: But I keep saying in my head, "I can't."
Me: Well, say "I can!" And if you go off balance, say "Oops!" instead of "I can't."

Charlotte manages to go several 2-3 second stints on our next pass through the school parking lot.

Me: Wow! That's a "Yes" world record! Before, you were all "nooooooooooooo-yes-no-yes-nooooooooooo" for time staying up, and that time, you were very much "yessssssss-nooooooooooooo-yes-no-yessssssssssss-noooooooooooo." (Demonstrated yes and no by drawing line with my finger on her handlebar pad).
Charlotte: Really?
Me: Yup. Let's do it again!

Unbelievably, Charlotte proceeds to ride about 150 yards without falling, without my hand on the seat. Finally needs catching when she needs to turn, pulling a cartoon-character-over-a-cliff kind of routine.

Me: (cackling...seriously cackling) That's a "Yesssssssssssssssss" WORLD RECORD! Wooooooooooooooohoooooooooooooooooooooo! (BIG HUG)
Charlotte: (absolutely grinning) What was the line like that time?
Me: (tracing line on her handlebar pad, past the pad) That was all "Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss." (tracing line past handlebar pad, up handlebar, up her arm, tickling her armpit) You should be so proud of you!
Charlotte: You know how I did it, Daddy? I thought "I can. I CAN!" the whole time! I didn't even say oops at all!

Glad I could satisfy the energy needs of my county from the amount of pride, relief, and joy that boiled off of me that day. I love that kid.

Now she just needs to learn how to stop.


  1. As a dad of a daughter (now 9) who still refuses to ride alone, even through she can ride up and down the street with me running behind with A FINGER on her back, I truly appreciate the topic. Your writing skills are great, Brian! Keep it up.

  2. Love that kid! And you are such a good daddy :) Now onto kid #2!

  3. Nate - thanks. This was a tough one, for sure. The finger thing cracks me up a bit.


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