Like the ancients of long ago, following in the great tradition of many a fathers before me, I aided my daughter with a rite of passage that has been handed down to us from our ancestors–I took the training wheels off my 6 year old daughters bike.
I pumped her tires, adjusted her seat, researched the best methods and tricks from the online gurus; all to help her achieve victory. She donned the necessary safety equipment and we headed to our destination. We set up our track on a foot path that parallels our home. I gave her all the pre-flight instructions she needed: Look in the direction you want to go, not at your feet; keep peddling, don’t stop.
She mounted her trusted bicycle, I was behind her with my hands under her armpits balancing her as needed, and we were off. The first run went as anyone would expect. She was unsure, and I held on to her most of the time. We went about 30 yards, and stopped. The second run, she was still unsure. This time we headed back to our starting point. Here is where our journey almost came to an end.
On the path we were working on are two poles that protrude from the ground (they stand about 3 feet high are about 12 inches around and rounded), in order to keep cars out. I was watching her balance, not looking at the path. I was acutely aware that the poles were impending, but she was riding by herself (about 11ft) and I didn’t want to stop her. My peripheral vision was telling me that it was getting closer, and closer, so I balanced two things in mind. Her awesome riding, and the danger of a head on collision. At this point, in my mind, the collision might have been worth the few extra feet she was riding. At the same time, it would have ended our time and possibly her bike riding career. Since I don’t want her to be the only freshman in High School with training wheels, I decided that we needed to slow down. I looked up, but to my dismay, we were closer to the pole than expected. So close that we didn’t have time to stop. Instant flashes of me telling my wife why we had to go to the hospital popped in my head, along with why my daughter has trust issues at 30 years old. I couldn’t let her hit the pole, so I grabbed her off the bike running past the pole with her in my outstretched arms. The bike crashed into the pole and laid next to it like a fallen comrade. I put her down, asked ” You ok?” Picked up the bike and said, “Ok, you ready to go again?”
She took a deep breath, got on the back looked at me and said, “Daddy, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
I was in shock. She wasn’t hurt, she hadn’t fallen. I did everything right. I didn’t get upset with her, nor her technique, I was completely encouraging. I didn’t get it. I asked her if she was scared, she said no. I asked her to tell me why, but she just kept saying, “I’m done.”
I said, “Ok, good job today” and I walked back to the house a defeated Father.
She went inside cried for a little bit and finally was convinced by her mother to keep trying. We told her we would video tape her so she could see herself riding. That was all the coaxing she needed.
We spent another 45 minutes taking turns between her mother and I running behind her encouraging her. At the end of the day I told her. “You were scared, but you kept going. I am so proud of you.”