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?