Most of the time, kids are serious business to their parents. I have a couple of my own and I can tell you, it is definitely a serious business. It’s not unusual for me to teach kids how to ride, but when you are teaching another persons child; it can become quite the scene. They either ride or they don’t, there isn’t much else to say. If they don’t learn now, they will surely later when the time is right for them. Generally the kids know the risks, skinned knees or elbows or perhaps a broken arm if the crash is big enough; that was the rumor anyway. Today, with the way life and the electronic environment have commingled themselves, we are now told their may be more to worry about other than bumps and bruises.
At an earlier date I had come across a chicken-scratch written note to me, more of a reminder really. There were two names on the note, one of which seemed familiar to me but the other had me stumped. The name that I had recognized belonged to my neighbor I had an idea of who the other person was and my guess was his daughter June. The half legible reminder included both of their names, as well as a phone number where June could be reached. I wasn’t sure how to respond to orders from a child, although I was impressed by the fact that she had “inked me in” before I had even looked at my own schedule. Marked on my calender for the following Saturday: “Teach June To Ride”.
We connected by phone and made solid plans. I told her that I had found the perfect spot and that she would like having the ability to coast down a gentle hill without the worry of having to pedal to maintain speed. I think I sold the job. It was a big day for me, but she was really excited as well. Win-win scenario in my opinion.
Metal is easy, I don’t have to make myself 3 feet tall to hear it speak. Tiny little June on the other hand was a force to be reckoned with. June was six and had almost ridden a bicycle at one point, but didn’t quite make it. I think a Band-Aid or two may have been involved but I couldn’t get much more information on the outcome at the time, as she had other engagements. June is the daughter of the divorced man I used to live next door from, she had only the weekends with her dad and today was the day.
I had planned out our training day as best I could. A lesson with solid structure would be a good starting point, but knowing kids you just take things as they come. Don’t apply any pressure and don’t expect results, yet embrace whatever results you get.
On the morning of Junes’ lesson, my life Lanie and I had an awesome omelet and plenty of our usual strong coffee. As much as I like to eat all I could think was ‘today is the day! I am finally teaching June to ride!’. We listened to the radio as we waited. June and her father showed up right on time, confirmed by the sticky note left on our fridge that one weekend.
I discussed my objectives with Lanie as we searched for the perfect slope to teach June how to ride. I had envisioned the location ahead of time naturally and I had assumed that I would be able to find it without much difficulty. As it turns out it didn’t end up being so natural after all. As we viewed different areas of potential Lanie described her first experience on a bicycle, it was something of a shock to me. Not unlike any of the “You’ll learn to swim once you hit the water!” type stories you hear friends and family tell.
We finally approached a spot that I had been longing to find. It was a small grassy hill, but not too big of a challenge. It was just large enough that June would be able to get on the bike and glide with very little effort. I wanted to show her the thrills and excitement, what it was like to have the wind in your face. In my experience it’s moments like those that kept me coming back for more and I was hoping it would have the same effect on June.
Not long after the bike was pulled out the back door of the jeep, June was put on it and the lessons began. With one foot on the ground and one foot on the right pedal, I told her to put her weight down and start to go. She had a look of determination on her brow as she rode away on her first attempt. Sadly she didn’t make it very far before the bicycle and Junes’ tiny body toppled over and she began to sob. Between tears she would peek between her fingers just to be sure there was someone watching.
I can’t recall how I first learned to ride, but it certainly wasn’t anything to cry about. I don’t even remember at all actually, I have been riding for so long that the beginning of it all slips my mind.
I had to get June back on the bike, the lesson had to go on. This may have been one of the “scenes” I brought to your attention before, that pop up when teaching other peoples children. The fall wasn’t that bad, but judging from Junes’ vocal reaction you would have thought otherwise. Luckily I was able coax the tears away and talk her back onto the bicycle. She sat taller this time, her original determination reinforced. Even June knew she had to ride.
We walked back to the peak of the knoll and started again. This time though, the strong willed little June rode all the way to the bottom. The look on her face reminded me of when I taught my kids how to ride. The look of pure excitement and joy, being able to be apart of this first memorable accomplishment in their lives, it was a good feeling.
The next part of our lesson was about to begin. After a few more runs down the hill, without much effort put towards momentum, it was time to learn on flat even terrain. This I felt might be a little more challenging for June. All she had to do before was hop on and go, this however, was going to need focus and patience.
Now on a level surface, I told June to get on the bike like she had done so on the hill; left foot on the ground, right foot on the pedal ready to push off and go. We call this the “ready stance”. As anticipated this portion of the lesson was a tad more challenging. June was having difficulty maintaining her steering and the peddling combined with the chatter all at once. When you are trying to keep a 6 year old steady and moving on a bicycle you must be able to maintain your own balance as well.
I had mentioned before that I was listening to the radio earlier that morning. The hosts were talking about internet security and protecting ones identity. I wondered to myself if June would be at any risk if I posted the photos of the event on my blog. Though my camera doesn’t collect the type of information that can reveal your exact location, I didn’t know if the case were the same with my phone. I didn’t really know what was what when I read about the microphone in my cell phone having the ability to be remotely activated and “tapped” into from a remote source. I couldn’t imagine someone being so bored as to wanting to listen to me ramble and curse at people, but combined with some of the weird in the road there is potential for some abuse.
June didn’t really achieve balance on the bicycle that day. We did have a lot of fun trying to get her “six-year old self” to be less “silly” and abandon her fear of balance, but that would require more silliness. To balance it takes a certain confidence that all variable are accounted for, if not under control. Albert Einstein said that “Life is like a bicycle and to balance, we must keep moving.”.
I didn’t find it difficult to end the lesson with some tumbling on the side of the hill, complete with the plucking and tossing of daisies, given the fact that balance evaded us both that day. She on her bicycle and me with the whole idea of managing ones privacy and protecting the people that I came in contact with.
The “responsibility of my actions” part is still in question. I would like to share some photos of the day because as people, cyclists, and friends, we should be able to share what we know. I have seen photos of your kids and you have seen photos of mine because that is what people do, we build on the foundations that were laid before our arrival. But today, it’s different, and harder to understand. I would imagine that some families now “opt out” on class photos because protecting ones anonymity is becoming something of a priority in today’s society.
June will know that she needs to make her next day on her bicycle more fun than the first. My hope is that she finds it to be less risk than her public profile.