This year for Christmas we got our older two girls bikes! Bikes! What kids doesn’t want their own bike!
I remember the first time I rode a bike all on my own. I was 5 years old, but can remember it like it was yesterday. I had a “fully loaded,” (i.e. – it had training wheels) black and silver “Knight Rider” themed bike. The first time I rode my bike all by myself was an incredible feeling of independence and accomplishment. I remember after that specific ride, hopping off my bike elated, running to my mom and dad to tell them all about it. The freedom of the road! The control I exerted! The wind in my hair! The speed at which I moved! The fresh Kansas air circulating through my lungs!
It. Was. Amazing.
And truth be told, I was excited to give our girls bikes with the hopes of experiencing that same excitement from them. A few nights before Christmas my wife and I put their bikes together looking forward to their reactions on Christmas morning. And when the morning came, their reactions didn’t disappoint. We had their bikes waiting in the other room and when we finished opening up all the presents we told them we had one more gift. When we wheeled them around the corner Kate, our oldest, with eyes wide open, exclaimed to her sister, “Emma! We got bikes!”
Score! I could wait to take them out for a spin!
Because of all the hoopla of Christmas, it wasn’t until the next day when we were able to get the girls out on their bikes. We decided to take them to the park and try them out on the bike path. Emma was eager and excited. She strapped her helmet on and was off. Kate wasn’t so sure. She was hesitant and apprehensive.
Realizing she was going to need some encouragement and help, I stayed with her. The next 30 minutes were a parenting disaster.
She didn’t want to ride her bike and wouldn’t pedal. When she did, she barely tried and said her bike wasn’t working. I was losing my patience due to her lack of effort and her continual complaints and comments about wanting to go on the swings. Determined to make at least one lap around the small path I kept pushing her hoping something would “click” and my magical childhood moment would be recreated in her.
The loop we were on was less than 1/8 mile and we didn’t even make it around once. There was an older mom walking the path who passed us at least 4 times. Each time our eyes met and her look said to me, “Take a break dad. Don’t fret. She’ll figure it out when she’s ready.” My wife said the same thing to me later that afternoon. Go figure.
I was so bent on making a memory that I aggravated my daughter and made myself angry. She didn’t really wanna ride her bike to begin with. She would have been just as happy with the swings and slides. And what made matters worse was when I put her bike in the van and discovered one of the wheels was, in fact, not working properly. She was right all along.
Later that evening, I was reflecting on my afternoon with Kate and came to realize the fine line of being excited for your kids and forcing your kids.
It was though I had a window into the future realizing I could be one of two types of dads. Either I can let my daughters be who they are and who they will become and love them regardless or crush them under the weight of my expectations pushing them to be who I think they should be and do what I think they should do.
All too often, parents do the latter and end up pushing their kids further away from them.
While my intentions were good, in the end it was more about me than Kate. I wanted to manufacture a moment more than love my daughter.
The ironic thing about it was two days later, with her mom not me, she got it. It clicked. She figured it out and now loves her bike. I can’t keep her off it.
Just like the look the older mom doing laps in the park gave me, “Don’t fret. She’ll figure it out when she’s ready.” But even is she didn’t, I’d still love her the same.
Top image taken from www.rcfirststeps.org.