And It was the Summer Of…

The Summer of... The Flash: SJ riding a bike.Seasons and times are remembered by events. The summer I learned to drive. The winter I started playing basketball. Junior year when I had my first girlfriend. With Labor Day in the mirror, it’s time to think what happening will mark the summer of 2015.

A few years ago, I tried to teach BR how to ride a bike. It was a struggle from the beginning. He was uninterested. His constant refrain of, “Why do I need to do this” as I led him around the block was exasperating. BR was on the verge of riding, but he was never willing to fall. His fear held him back. While riding a bike is not a required skill for a happy childhood, I felt, somehow, that I failed him. Maybe I should have pushed harder. Maybe, I should have been more delicate. Maybe I should have been more understanding.  Whatever the issue, the moment passed. It’s been two years since I even tried to get BR on a bike.

SJ loves his scooter. He also loves his bike. He didn’t mind that it had training wheels. Ms. MMK and I tried telling him he was getting too old and big and that it was time to take the training wheels off.

SJ was reluctant. He doesn’t like change. Continue reading

Why I Deliberately Hurt My Children

Courtesy of Flickr

Courtesy of Flickr

FDRThe Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself

SJ and I are lying in the grass. We are a few houses down from our own.

You may be wondering why we were lying on our neighbor’s front lawn.

Well, I pushed SJ down. It was for his own good.

Continue reading

Together We Ride

We all want those big moments. The “aha” moment, the moment when we see the light, and the moment where everything makes sense. To quote Bruce Springsteen, “some people spend their whole life waiting for moment that just don’t come. Don’t waste your time waiting.”

Recently I wrote a post entitled “The Fearful Rider.”  The post focused on the challenges I have been facing as I try to teach my son, BR, how to ride a bike. It has not gone particularly well. He is struggling, and I am struggling with teaching him. I have not ridden a bike for years – just a couple of times since I was hit by a car as an 11-year-old boy.

BR had been bicycling around the block showing halting progress. He was mildly interested at best.  After a week of practice, he spent a week at his grandmother’s house. Upon his return home, he had no interest in practicing again, and I had no interest in fighting him.  Things were at a standstill.

Then, I came up with an idea.  And BR bought into it. I suggested we ride a tandem bike together when we were on vacation. I figured that when this ride went well, BR would feel comfortable and confident to ride on his own. It was my intention to get him to practice as part of this upcoming ride. That, unfortunately, did not happen.

When we got the Jersey shore, BR asked me about when we are going to go on a bike. His fear seemed to have completely evaporated and was replaced by excitement. I was thrilled. I had grand visions of BR and me gliding along the boardwalk.  We would be basking in the ocean breezes. We would engage in intermittent chatting about how great it was to be together on a bike.

On Wednesday morning, after we woke up, we had breakfast (we skipped the PED’s – save ‘em for the Tour De France). It was a beautiful morning –humidity free and cloudless. We got to the bike rental place at just after 8:30, paid for and received a bike, and strapped on our helmets.  By this point, I was nervous. Yes, I was nervous about BR. However, I was even more nervous about myself. After all, I had not been on a bike for years. Now, not only was I getting on a bike for the first time, but I was putting my own son’s safety at risk. Maybe I could not ride a bike anymore. Was the saying you never forget how to ride a bike true?

Well, BR and I were given the green light to ride away. It was not steady going. We decided to walk the bike up the slope to the boardwalk. We got to the side of the boardwalk and got back on the bike again. We wobbled. Each BR shake or jerk shook the bike. We almost fell. But we didn’t. We stayed upright and bumped along.  We struggled on the turns.

As BR and I rode, I realized that I felt comfortable. I enjoyed riding. I did not forget. What about BR? “We should do this again, this is easy,…”    Later on after two stops, BR was ready to hand the bike in early. “My legs hurt, I’m tired, sorry for jerking the bike.”

So, BR and I rode a bike together. It wasn’t perfect. The ride didn’t change everything and make BR  eager to ride a bike himself. However, he enjoyed it, and I enjoyed it. We both conquered some of our fears. That is a moment worth savoring.

The Fearful Rider

I run across streets.

Two weeks after my 11th birthday, I was hit by a car. Apparently, the car was speeding as the driver was late for work. I don’t care. It was a Wednesday night. My family and I had frozen pizza for dinner. Friends of mine were going to Loesche Elementary School’s playground. The playground had an old rocket ship. When the wind blew or kids pushed, the top compartment of the aged ship would shake. My knees would grow unsteady as I approached the top of the ship. I was eager to conquer my fear and confidently climb to the top of the rocket ship.

Sure, I would go to the playground. My friends and I rode our bikes there. I made it to the top of the rocket ship and enjoyed the view of my childhood neighborhood. On the way home, we got separated. When I got to Red Lion road, I got off my bike with the intention of walking it across to the other side. I never made it.

I have very vague memories of the next few hours. I had a severe concussion and was badly bruised. However, nothing was broken – except my bike that is. For a few years after the accident, I had to go for EEG’s. Doctors were concerned I could have a seizure. Thankfully, I was fine and had no long-term affects.

Except, I run across streets. When I come to a big street at an off hour, I run. Red, yellow, or green, I run. I never ride a bike. I don’t like driving near people on bikes. I do everything I can do avoid them. I hate seeing bicyclists on the streets.

BR is 8 years old and is unable to ride a bike. He has certain issues that make bike riding more challenging for him. One of my summer goals was to enable my elder son. We have started practicing in earnest this week. On Monday and Wednesday, we went around the block with BR on his bike and me guiding him. I’d like to say that this practice is showing promise.

He fights me nearly every pedal of the way. When I say it is time to go outside, he immediately goes for his scooter (without his helmet – but that’s another story). BR dictates that the only way he will practice is if I do not let go. I try to reason with him: you’ll never learn this way and it is okay to fall. He doesn’t accept my reasoning. We start out with my hand on his back. He insists on both hands, but I don’t give in on this.

As BR rides along under my guiding hands, I give instructions: keep pedaling, eyes up, remember to steer. He takes in the instructions like a pampered athlete.

“Why, why, why? I don’t see why.”

“Just trust me. I know what I am talking about. And stop talking and focus on what you are doing.”

He doesn’t stop talking. I let go for a moment. He can do this. He is doing it. Then, the bike crashes. Actually, that is not accurate. He puts the bike down. BR is scared.

“You were doing it. You can do this. Why did you stop?”

The excuses fly. He will never say the truth: He is scared. I don’t know how to make him not scared. Is it possible more practice make him less scared? Of course. Those issues noted above include anxiety. It is neither surprising nor unexpected that it would take more practice for BR to get bike riding down.

Then, there is the other side of me. I am scared. In the 30 years since the accident, I have ridden a bike a grand total of two times. Both times were while I was on vacation, and I did not enjoy it.

So what do I say to BR when he questions, “Why do I have to learn to ride a stupid bike anyway?” My answers – it’s fun, a kid your age should be able to ride a bike, what are you going to do when the other kids are on their bikes – don’t even convince me. Or him. He comes back with the dagger of a comment for which I have no real answer. “But you don’t ride a bike. Why don’t you ride a bike? You’re okay.” A mumbled, “That’s different.”

We’ve made it around the block, and I am thankful. We have practiced. He’s getting better, I think. The end of the summer is not so far away. BR can be riding a bike on his own by then. I am convinced of it. I just have to find a way to convince him. Then, maybe he can convince me to ride next to him.