Who Needs Training Wheels?

Oxford dictionary defines training wheels as “a pair of small supporting wheels fitted on either side of the rear wheel of a child’s bicycle.”

Atticus has required a significant amount of support in many areas of life – and learning to ride a bike wasn’t an exception. I bought him a bike for his third birthday, which remained unused for the year that we had it, because he didn’t have any interest in attempting to ride. I eventually sold that bike to some lucky parent who scored a like-new bicycle, for her child, at a great cost of only $10.00.

I decided I didn’t want to give up on Atticus learning to ride a bike, so I bought him another one the summer he turned four. Because of his motor delays, Atticus has always struggled with new activities, but I was determined he would learn to ride that summer. I took him outside daily, I had him sit on the bike, and I instructed him on how to use his feet to move the pedals. He tried often, but he was never able to make those pedals move.

He became easily frustrated with the practice. Why wouldn’t he? He wasn’t accomplishing anything unless I was pushing him, and that wasn’t doing either one of us any favors – he wasn’t learning, and I suffered back aches from the process. Atticus eventually refused to even try to pedal, and I realized it was time to stop pushing the issue, so we put the bike away and never brought it out again that summer.

The following summer, just shy of his fifth birthday, he was participating in a Safety Town program when I received the news that he rode a bike on his own during the class! I couldn’t believe the wonderful news, but I needed to witness it for myself. I dusted off his bike, and with anticipated joy, I watched as Atticus climbed on the bike and pedaled away. He looked as if he had been riding for years.

He soon outgrew that bike with training wheels, so for Christmas 2015, he received a new, larger bicycle. He loved the new bike until he realized it didn’t have training wheels. He refused to ride from that moment forward. As warmer weather arrived, I often asked Atticus, “Do you want to ride your bike today?” He consistently answered, “No.”

Last summer came and went and Atticus never touched his new bike. He didn’t have any desire to ride because “It doesn’t have training wheels.” I always responded to his cry that he wouldn’t ever ride a bike again with that attitude, because I wasn’t going to buy training wheels ever again. Sometimes I fear I may be too hard on him, because he does suffer a lot of difficulties with body awareness and his place on the earth, but I think he needs an extra push from time to time or he will remain “stuck” and refuse to take the initiative to attempt new things to help him grow. In that way, I feel as though I am his “support.” He just doesn’t understand that yet.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked Atticus for the first time this summer, “Do you want to learn to ride your bike?” He immediately answered, “Yes.” I was shocked, but should I have been? As often happens when Atticus has refused to try new things in the past, a switch was flipped inside him that day, and he decided now was the time he would attempt to ride that scary bike with only two wheels.

Just shy of ten years old now, he went to the park, sat on the seat, began to pedal, and then he fell. He got up, sat on the seat, and tried again. And just like every other kid learning to ride, he fell again, and again, and again… maybe a little more than most. But he didn’t give up. Before the evening was over, he was riding – he was extremely wobbly, but he was riding. He felt free. He felt alive. The smile on his face was electrifying. He was proud of himself, and he couldn’t get enough. Not a day has passed that he hasn’t asked to ride his bike, and even when I don’t feel like it, or I’m running short on time, I make sure to give him a few minutes of happiness with his new-found love.

He still has trouble braking, so we stay on flat surfaces and away from hills and curves, but I’m sure with the support of those who love him, he will be able to maneuver his bike like a champ in no time.

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