I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 8 or 9 years old. I seem to remember having a strong desire not to rack myself. But eventually, my older brother forced me to wobble around on his ten speed in the parking lot of our tiny apartment. And rack myself.
Elijah, on the other hand, has been obsessed with riding his bike since we bought it almost exactly a year ago. Countless times this winter we had to explain how it wasn’t good for your health to pilot your bike through a blizzard.
Now that the weather has broken, Eli won’t stop talking about getting on his bike. And most notably, riding without training wheels.
His two pals from down the street, the ones with the more sporty gaits, have been riding sans training since last summer. And Eli wants to join their ranks. All last week he forced me to promise over and over to take his training wheels off and let him be free.
I urged him to take a more cautious approach. Maybe he could take this summer to practice on the training wheels and next year we’d take those wheels off. I felt an ache in my groin just thinking about it.
No way. Eli wanted those training wheels off. Now. Punctuated by his pal Lincoln, who literally rode circles around us as we debated.
“Okay okay,” I said, “I’ll take off your training wheels. But listen. It’s really tough at first. You’ll get it. But first you have to fall down a few times. Do you understand? You won’t instantly be an expert.”
“But what if I do get it on the first try? I’d be a genius!” His face glowed.
Fine. I got my wrench and removed some of the last tethers keeping him my baby boy.
Elijah straddled the bike and I instructed him how to position his feet and get a good start. He immediately fell over and cried. The words “I told you so” tried to fight their way out of my mouth, but I resisted.
Like any good cowboy, Eli got back on that horse. Adding my name to that cliché seen literally billions of times, I ran behind him and steadied him. He fell a few more times and I accidentally chocked him with hood.
But then, for the briefest of moments, he rode. Maybe 5 or 10 feet, but it was glorious. I felt a strong desire to weep, but I couldn’t give Lincoln the satisfaction.
Elijah shouted, “I’m doing it! I’m doing it! I’m a genius!”
And then he fell into the bushes and decided to go play inside and Star Wars with Lincoln.