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.