i want to ride my bicycle

In addition to many different tubs full o junk (very necessary junk), we are also traveling with 5 bicycles. FIVE. Two of them are Taido’s. He sort of has a thing for biking, and I’m sure there is a very good reason that we are traveling with a mountain bike AND a road bike for him. I’m just not exactly sure what it is. Then Cole, Mary Polly and Ben each have a bike. If it were not for the total pain of lugging it around, we would have bought Simon a little trike by now because he is constantly trying to climb on all the bigger bikes. He really would like to get in on the biking. But there is one child who has not really cared for the biking portion of our summer adventure, and that would be Ben. Ben’s whole season of learning to ride a bike has made me eat a lot of the things I have thought in the past about kids learning to ride bikes. Cole and I both were riding our bikes (sans training wheels) at the age of five, and so I just wasn’t sure what was taking everyone else so long. That’s why God gave me so many children. Even if three out of four children manage to meet every unreasonable expectation I have about parenting, there will always be one who breaks the mold. And it isn’t always the same child. They take turns having a go at humbling me and making me vow to never say, I won’t ever… or No child of mine will… or All my children will know how to ride a bike. It’s amazing how much I have to keep re-learning that lesson. You would think I would know by now. Anyway, because of my preconceived notions about children and bikes, we have been lugging Ben’s bike around all summer even though he hasn’t been riding it. It just sits there. About once a week, Taido makes him do a few loops around the campground with him. And then once a week turned into twice a week. And then last week sometime, they started practicing every night. Somehow, Ben all of a sudden became way less resistant to the idea whereas at the beginning of the summer he all but refused to go and often had to be bribed. He said things like, I hate bikes. I never want to ride a bike. Earlier this year, Ben really had the whole bike thing down, but he crashed on our street (which is not a good bike riding street for a beginner because it is basically one large hill) and he said he was done forever. And he meant it. Since then, nothing could tempt him to get out on a bike. He said he was happy on a scooter, and he has been mad at me this summer for bringing his bike instead of his scooter.

All summer long, Mary Polly and Cole have ridden bikes everywhere and Ben is always running behind them. It has made me sad. He looks all pitiful running behind their bikes, and of course, he is always the last one to arrive at the park or the lake or wherever they are going. But it has not seemed to bother him at all. He is happy to go at his own pace. Ben is a little clumsy…it kind of fits in with his messiness. At the end of every day, he has new scrapes and bruises, and is covered in dirt. It seems like he is always the one to get hurt. He got stung by a bee earlier this week. No one else has been stung all summer. He is our only child who has broken a bone. He has received more stitches on his head than anyone else. He is just accident prone. Since it seems life is already sort of dangerous for Ben on the ground, it can’t get any better to add height and wheels to the situation. I guess.

But yesterday, for some unknown reason, Ben turned the corner. He actually asked for Taido to take him out on his bike for a loop around the campground. Maybe it is the thrill of riding through all the sprinklers that are going around every corner, or just that (as I already mentioned) this campground is perfect for bike riding. Maybe it’s that Anne and Gilbert ride bikes in the movie version of Anne of Green Gables, and he’s seen Gilbert crash on his bike and live to tell about it. I don’t know what it was, but somehow he miraculously crossed that threshold and by mid-morning he was riding all around on his own. He did have several accidents, but none were bad enough to throw him off riding for good. At least so far, he seems thrilled to be out on his bike. Simon cheers for him every time he rides back up into our campsite. so great! At one point I looked way across the campground and on the other side of the park all three big kids were riding their bikes in a row and I tell you my heart just leapt up out of its spot. I just love that sight. It was so sweet to me. Idyllic and summery and pastoral.

And when it got really hot. 2-5pm is the window of time that you must remain perfectly still to avoid melting. Because the camper was feeling a tad crowded to me after three hours our first day here, the second day we headed to a small town to do our laundry during the heat of the day. BAD PLAN. It was even hotter in the Laundromat than it was outside. I couldn’t even bear to stay long enough to dry my clothes. I brought them all back and hung them up and they were dry in like 20 minutes. Which also saved me $5, by the way. So yesterday, when Simon went down for a nap and Cole and Mary Polly retreated to the camper to read, Ben and I found some shade under some trees, where we put blankets on the ground and half read and half slept for a while. After about an hour, he said, Well, I think I am going to go and ride my bike and see if that will make me cool. I watched him through sleepy eyes, the sole movement in the entire campground, besides the slow fluttering of the tree leaves being blown by a hot breeze. He rode the circle of the campground for a long time all by himself. A long time coming, but he seems to finally have it. On his own time. In his own way.

Mary Polly was seven before she could ride her bike alone, but Ben surprised me by not wanting to catch up with the others earlier. He turned seven in April. I think my mom was like ten before she learned to ride a bike. She lived on a busy street and her parents were very cautious. It is funny how all different circumstances can play into when and where you learn how to ride a bike. Anna and I learned to ride our bikes when our family lived on a cul-de-sac, which is not only a perfect place to learn, but we had the added influence of lots of other kids on bikes. Peer pressure. I have seen several kids learn to ride on camping trips. We go camping every fall with several families and every year it seems like someone learns to ride their bike as all the other kids go pedaling by. And then there are those kids who have no fear and seem to have been born knowing how to ride a bike. When we lived in an apartment complex in Seattle, which was a terrible place for bike riding (the complex, not Seattle, which is a very bike-friendly town), Cole’s best little buddy was always taking Cole’s bike and riding it through the steep parking lot as fast as he could. He broke the training wheels off of it bumping over curbs, and he was barely four years old. In fact, I think Cole only learned so early because he had watched Ja’vohn for so long. However, Mary Polly was not the least bit responsive to the knowledge that Kindell (her best friend) and Grace (her cousin) already knew how to ride bikes, so didn’t she want to learn too so she could ride with them?? That tactic never works with her. She’ll let you know when she’s ready and don’t bother her before then thank you very much.

I am excited about biking as a means of transportation and fun for our family. Especially with gas being so expensive. On a bike shop in Bend, Oregon we saw a billboard that said…Three tanks full of gas or a new bike? Which one will last you longer? Clever, eh?

How about you? When and where did you learn to ride a bike? Or why didn’t you? Do you still ride it? Does it take you back to being 10 years old in a neighborhood full of kids? Do you want to start riding bikes with me to the grocery store? We could get some of those cool satchel things. I think they could be considered gear. Taido would be all over it.