My youngest daughter has been hesitating for months at taking the training wheels off of her bike.
Not even now at the age of seven does she want to brave riding without the support of those trusty training wheels.
So I took them off.
“I will fall,” she said, lowering her head and kicking out at the floor.
I said, “Let’s give it a try.”
She said, ever so meekly, “Okay.”
On the first try, with her elder sister along for support, the youngest whined that she could fall into the prickly bushes along the sidewalk on the two-block walk to the plaza. On the next block, she said, “Not here. Too many people.” Then at the plaza she fretted about the baby pushchair on the sidewalk. Those boys! The granny. That boy on the bike. The dogs! Never had the sidewalk been so busy. In her eyes.
Then she went for it.
I held the back of her seat and then let go and ran alongside her. The youngest wobbled, put her feet down and bumped to a stop. The pedals hit her shins. Her sister, 12, coached her on. “You can do it!”
The youngest put the pedals in position again, started, wobbled, put her feet down and banged her shins.
“I can’t do this,” she said out loud, but to herself. “I know. You don’t have to tell me. It’s hard.”
She continued to mutter, looking down at her bike: “Sorry, bike, sorry, pedals.”
Then she stopped her nervous introspection.
“Hey! Why am I saying sorry? I don’t know. OK, let’s try again. Ready, set. Wait, wait. Get the pedals set, my feet on them. Now. Ready, set, go…”
And that was it. Another attempt, then another. And then she got her stride, and wobbles and all, she rode half a block and coasted to a stop at the corner, looked back and gave us the thumbs up.
I give her the thumbs up back.
And so her confidence grew, and she went an entire block, and when I caught up I said, “You’ve got it licked!”
She looked at her sister and me, smiled, and said, “Like an ice cream.”
Aptly put, I thought.
So the afternoon went on with more practice, and my eldest daughter went to a friend’s house. The youngest and I, after a water break, did more laps around the plaza. Her wobbles evened out, the pedals didn’t bang her shins so much, and her pace got faster.
I walked behind.
She pedaled ahead, and then stopped at the corner. She turned her bike around and rode back and when she reached me, she looked over and said, “Slow coach.” And whizzed past me.
She did it again, and this time she stuck her tongue out at me.
Yep, I thought, she’s got it licked… like an ice cream.