I am currently trying to teach my 7-year old how to ride a bike. I use the word “teach” loosely, as we are not making a ton of progress. I have basically just been running alongside her holding on to the bike as she either laughs with glee or begs me not to let go.
As I’ve mentioned this challenge to others, I’ve gotten all kinds of ideas on how to actually teach her – put the training wheels back on, use a sidewalk that’s smooth, hold the back of the bike, try letting her walk the bike instead of putting her feet on the pedals. I initially thought all of these ideas were great. They have all failed. My daughter is determined to ride without training wheels and I am determined that I can teach her to do it.
This is not just about riding a bike. I need to be able to teach her without the help of a husband. By myself. Sad but true – that’s what will currently make me feel brave and accomplished. Audrey needs to conquer her fear of falling. That’s what will make her feel brave and accomplished. We were both frustrated and trying to hide it from the other. But a couple days ago, everything changed when we fell.
We fell because I took my hand off the seat for a couple seconds. I thought she would soar ahead and realize she could do it on her own and all would be right with the world. Instead what happened is when she realized I’d let go she became really frightened, and she turned around to scold me. When she got distracted, she fell. And when she fell I tried to help and I also fell. And then she got really seriously angry and shouted at me.
Giant Mommy Fail.
Then my neighbor said something that struck me. He suggested we try on grass because a fall is easier and less scary. Something clicked in my head and what occurred to me is that I actually needed to teach her about falling. She needs to know that it’s OK to fall and that falling is not a failure. She also needs to know the way to fall so she’s least likely to really hurt herself, and then finally she needs to know how to get back up again. I needed to teach her how to fall.
We are all going to fall in life. And while I may still laugh at a couple of spectacularly funny tumbles that happened 35 years ago at Haygood Roller Rink, for the most part what is important – what says something about who we are – is how we get back up. One way or another we show our kids how to fall and get back up. We either do that intentionally or unintentionally. We show them by how we live our life. We show them when they see us face our fears or avoid things that make us fearful. We show them when we laugh at ourselves or when we berate ourselves. We show them when we admit we need help and then ask for that help.
Sometimes falling isn’t even our fault – it just happens to us. Someone accidentally runs into us. Someone purposely trips us. Someone around us doesn’t see danger and we fall as a result of their poor decisions. In these scenarios, we show our kids how to fall when we decide to take the high road or when we publicly point fingers. One of my jobs as a parent is to show my girls how to fall and to show them how to get back up.
I have a good-sized bruise on my leg/ankle from my recent fall with Audrey. But the next night we went back out again. This time to a park with freshly low-cut grass, after showing her the right way to fall. Without any guidance about the best way to help Audrey, Ella channelled The Three Stooges and comically fell over repeatedly. My teenager might be smarter than me.
Audrey’s current bike-riding status: work in progress.
My current fall and get back up status: work in progress.
According to Pinterest, which I dedicate too much time to when I should be sleeping, we can be a work in progress and a masterpiece at the same time. Pinterest doesn’t know who said that, but somebody on Pinterest definitely said it – so I’m going with that.