Saturday, June 21, 2008

How Biking Has Changed

Christmas, 1981..An eight year old little girl gets her first bike ever...a pink huffy that she named Strawberry Shortcake. It is unusually warm for West Michigan in December and the girl and her older brother and sister head outside to learn how to ride. In her memory, about an hour later she is off and riding completely independently.

Fast forward 27 years. Now, a child gets his first tricycle at two years old.

And then the very next year, he gets his first two wheeler, complete with helmet and training wheels. Now, they're not really "training" wheels as much as just ANOTHER SET of wheels. There is no intention of pulling them off to teach a three year old how to ride a bike.

Aaron inherited the tricycle.

Last year, Noah got the next size bigger, again with "training" wheels.

And Aaron got his first "big boy bike" hand me down

It was last summer, when all of a sudden all of my friends started making declarations "My kids WILL learn to ride without training wheels this summer!"

Now, in my opinion, I was NOT going to push Noah into this milestone. I figure, when he's ready, he'll ask. Otherwise, it's just one more stress for him. So while everyone else is taking off the training wheels and teaching them, Noah has been perfectly happy riding along with his training wheels.

Evening pajama ride in 2006

For the past couple of weeks, I have noticed him relying less and less on the "training" wheels and wondered, "What would happen if I raised them?"

First bike ride of 2008

So this afternoon, I did. Up to the very highest. So high that the bike won't even sit straight. Noah was a little nervous, but willing to try and I ran along beside him. After passing a few houses, I decided, "I need to go with my original theory. He'll ask when he's ready" and asked him to stop so I could lower the trainers back down.

Noah and Neighbor Bradley in 2005 on their first tricycles

However, he didn't WANT to lower them back down. I took him over to the parking lot near our house, and started counting out loud how many seconds he could go without relying on the training wheels. He went EIGHTEEN seconds. He was so proud. I reminded him a few times to sit up straight and then he started reminding himself, which is unusual for him to take advice in the first place.

SO, am I going to take them off completely and be like every one else? No Way! After he finally had a couple of wipe outs and was ready to come home, we decided to go the store tomorrow and get knee and elbow pads but he is raring to go again tomorrow. He has a great attitude toward this step and I see no reason to force any more on him. Why do parents INSIST that a child MUST learn at a certain age? It's not like they will have their extra wheels forever. I have no intention of forcing it, but I will sit back and encourage the steps as we go.

How things have changed. When we were little, the kids with training wheels got made fun of and you learned to ride a bike by wiping out and getting injured over and over until you finally stopped wiping out. We NEVER had a helmet, and it's too bad because I suffered a pretty nasty head injury at nine years old when my bike got hit by a car. We were able to ride wherever and whenever without parents anywhere around.

I am proud of Noah and his first step today. At the same time, Aaron spent the time in the parking lot learning how to brake. That too, was a great milestone to have achieved today. Of course, ice cream celebrations were in order. (You don't have to search very hard to find a reason to celebrate with ice cream.)

What are your thoughts? Are you a parent that insists on taking the training wheels off and forcing the issue just because your child turned a certain age? Or are you like like me, wanting to wait until they're ready, however progressing in steps as your child seems ready?


bethn said...

I'm with you. I refused to take the training wheels off until Alex was ready for it. He finally decided to take them off last summer while we were at the lake. It took him a couple of days to really get the hang of it, but when he did there was no looking back. Now Dylan is already looking toward getting his off. I'm glad Noah is enjoying riding his bike and is working toward getting his training wheels off.

Anonymous said...

My husband took his own training wheels off (so the story goes) when he was 4, and was the only kid to ride his bike to kindergarten. He tried to take A.P.'s wheels off last summer (just before he turned 4), but he wasn't ready. I am all for waiting until A.P. asks, but having said that, I think if my parents hadn't taken my training wheels off I would still be using them. said...

At my daughter's school they have a path (of older asfault[sp?}) that is small that leads to a sand box, for a long jump I guess--?
Anyhow... when my son was 3 almost 4 he wanted to ride without the training wheels, So, we took him down to the school and used the path that lead to the sand box, that way if he wiped-out he would only crash in the grass! Now he is 5 and riding his two wheeler like a pro! His sister, who is 7 -- is only just this week wanting her training wheels off-- to practice in the grass!
I think it is good to let them choose, keep offering them options but let them be "in charge"

Chris said...

You know we haven't even thought about this yet with Diva-J... She is doing great on her bike, but hasn't asked for the training wheels off, so I am not in any hurry to take them off...I say let the kid dictate this one...of and by the way...go Noah! Congrats on the accomplishment - wish I was there to see it!

Anonymous said...

Honestly, we are so bad about even taking him out on the bike that he might be 13 before he's ready to take them off...

I need to get on that...

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

Well, you know that Abby doesn't even ride her bike - in fact this year we've given it to Hannah since Abby's outgrown it. We did buy a bigger bike off of our neighbors (and it doesn't have training wheels on it), but Abby's just not interested. Ron seems to be much more into wanting them off - he took Hannah's off last weekend. I think she wasn't ready and wish he'd put them back on.

I don't remember how old I was when I learned how to ride without training wheels - my first bike or two did have them though. :)

Shannon @ Gabi's World said...

I am so glad you wrote this post. I have been stressing myself about that I thought I could get Gabi riding her bike by the end of this summer without training wheels. Never did I think about that she really doesn't care. She just loves riding her bike. I guess that thought was all about me. Thanks for making me think of it differently. I think I will let her just enjoy it.

And when I was a kid, we rode our bikes just to ride them. When I told my oldest one day to go ride his bike when he proclaimed boredom, he asked me, "to where?"

Courtney said...

Taylor is only 4 so we will wait, but she wants to do it. She has no balance though so maybe we'll let her try next spring. We did raise the wheels and she does wipe out a lot!