Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Bikes, Lots, and Cheers (but not too much!)

“Don’t root so much, Mommy. It’s making me nervous!”


A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch working as she and the other children from the neighborhood played outside. I watched her run and jump and laugh, but I could tell, like all mommies, that she really wanted to do something else. She watched her sister and other little girls ride two-wheeled bikes without training wheels, and she really wanted to do it, too.

There was just too much pressure! Everyone giving directions. Everyone yelling out feedback. Everyone wanting to do it themselves instead of really letting her try. Everyone literally riding circles around her. I could tell, sitting on that couch, that she needed me, but she’s at that age. You know the one I’m talking about: the age where older girls are so fascinating, the age where private correction works better than public correction, the age where having your mommy show you something that everybody else already knows in front of everybody else is the most uncool thing EVER. So I waited.

I braced my body like it was me every time she fell. I hurt for her every time another girl took her bike back because she wanted to ride. I even cried, knowing how much she wanted to cry, when she just couldn’t figure it out. Every bit of self control I have was called to the surface to stop myself from running outside and holding her, letting her know that she would be fine.

“I learned in the church parking lot,” I confessed to my husband as we were riding home. “I mean, I could ride already, but when I wanted to learn how to pop a wheelie or ride with one hand or ride with no hands, I did it in that lot. It was more space for me to figure it out without crashing into anything.”

“Did you just say ‘pop a wheelie?'” He was teasing me through that million watt smile of his.

I slapped his arm playfully as we drove home. Our road trip nearly over, I knew it was time. “I can do it,” I said. “I can teach her to ride.”

“You are probably the least athletic person I know.” He was still smiling.

I may not be athletic, but I know what she needs. A boastful moment for mommy, yes, but still, it was true.


Detail from Ville Platte, Louisiana's a hand-painted wall mural by Waven Boone. TE photo April 2009

Detail from Ville Platte, Louisiana’s a hand-painted wall mural by Waven Boone. TE photo April 2009

We walked to the church. I stuck my keys dramatically into my pocket. Bubba took off running in the great expanse of the empty parking lot.

“Ok. First, I want you to watch your sister very carefully. She’s going to ride slow.” The Princess climbed onto the bike and slowly pedaled. I only let her go a few feet before I had her get off. She had watched other kids model enough.

“Ok,” I said. “You can do this, Daredevil. You really can do this. I know with everything in me that you can and will do this today.” I spoke with emphatic confidence, looking her squarely in the eyes, making her push her doubt away. I could tell that she believed me.

“Listen to my directions and follow them carefully. Put your foot on the top pedal. Keep both hands on the handle bars and push down slowly on that pedal. When the bike starts to move, lift your other foot and put it on the other pedal. Then, raise your head and eyes to look forward so you can see where you are going.” She looked at me, and I could see the fear.

“You are going to do this. Are you ready?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” I smiled a little at her formality.

“Ok. As you ride, I’m going to remind you of what to do.”

“Put your foot on the top pedal and push down slowly.” She did. I could hear her breathing through her nervousness, reminiscent of those child birthing classes. “Lift that other foot onto the other pedal. Look up,” I coached, “so you an see where you’re going.”

“Oh my gosh! I’m doing it! Look mommy, I’m doing it! This is the best day of my life!”

There I was, standing in the middle of a church parking lot with Bubba running around in total toddler freedom and the Princess jumping up and down and clapping and the Daredevil so incredibly proud to be riding a bike, and I was choking back tears.

The Daredevil stopped hard throwing her left foot hard into the ground, avoiding running into the guardrail. “We can work on braking later. Get back on that bike.”

This time we were chanting, “Go, D, go! Go, D, go!”

“Don’t root so much, Mommy. It’s making me nervous!”

“Ok, Baby, I’ll stop.”

“No, Mommy. I still want you to root for me, just not so loud. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Baby, I understand.”

Single Post Navigation

5 thoughts on “Bikes, Lots, and Cheers (but not too much!)

  1. Alice on said:

    How I’ve missed your “voice!” I can’t believe your kids are this big already. If we were still in room 235, discussing the “universal truths” in this story, we would certainly speak of confidence, effective teaching strategies, peer support, the teacher’s reward, and love. Oh, the love shines through loud and clear.

    Love always,

  2. Anonymous on said:

    very good story, learning to ride a bike is not so bad after all.

Let's Hear What You're Thinking...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: