Yesterday, it seemed my three year old son took a giant step in the growing up process when he straddled his two wheeler and raced away from me down the bike path. I couldn’t believe his level of confidence when I let go with a slight push and off he went. However, when he made a hairpin turn, his peddle scrapping the ground as he leaned in, my heart momentarily caught in my chest as my stomach turned over. But the rush of fear lasted only a second, and before I could react he had already straightened up and was heading back towards me. I could not believe how incredibly agile he was considering it was only his second day riding the bike. I had had anticipated days of taking him out, holding onto the seat as he peddled, letting go, then picking him up and brushing him off after he fell. I expected countless tears and days of trying to convince him to get back on the bike. I feared numerous cuts and bruises, but alas my expectations had been foiled. The balance bike we had gotten him last Christmas had worked its magic.
When my son was still a baby, I was out one afternoon pushing him in the stroller when I found myself engaged in a conversation with another mother whose child was a couple of years older than mine. The child was a riding a balance bike and his mother told me how wonderful it was and she strongly advised me to buy one for my own son when he was old enough. When my son turned two, I wanted to buy him a balance bike for Christmas. However, once in the bike store, my son fell in love with an overpriced blue tricycle. He rode it around the store and wouldn’t even look at the balance bike I so desperately wanted him to try out. Not wanting to disappoint him, Santa brought the blue tricycle on Christmas morning instead of a balance bike. That morning, eager to ride his new bike, we took him outside and he very enthusiastically rode his bike around the house once. He then rapidly lost interest in the bike and in the past twenty months he may have ridden it two dozen times.
A year goes by, and this time, with my son about to turn three, I was very intent on getting him a balance bike for Christmas. My dad, a traditionalist in many ways, thought I should just get him a regular bike with training wheels. He didn’t see the value in spending money on a bike that had no pedals and came close to talking me out it. However, standing in the same bike shop I stood in the previous year, this time alone and without my son distracted by other things, I had a conversation with one of the sales guys. He strongly recommended that I get a balance bike but he told me not to buy one it his store because they were overpriced. When they were first designed in Europe they were made cheaply with wood. The idea was that the kids would ride them for only a short time before transitioning onto a real bike. America then imported the bike, and because it is America and America is about making money, American companies made them sturdier than they needed to be and charged more than they were worth. Therefore, he advised that I go online and find a well made wooden bike which we did. Thirty-five dollars later, my son’s bike was hiding in the closet waiting for Christmas morning. He loved it and I loved taking him to the bike path and watching as his balance rather quickly developed.
Six months later, we were at a consignment sale and found a two wheeler that was about the same size as the balance bike. For ten dollars we brought and figured we’d leave it in the garage until my son was ready to give it a try. It sat there until two afternoons ago when he decided he wanted to ride it. I took it out, he hopped on the seat and off he went. I could not have asked for a smoother transition. The balance bike worked as promised, building up not only my son’s balance but his confidence as well. Though I must admit I almost feel cheated. Teaching my son to ride a bike was something I had been looking forward to, but with the balance bike he was able to teach himself. He just needed me there, getting him out to the bike path and running along side of him offering encouragement.
Yesterday, at one point when he came to a stop, I asked, “What happed to my little baby?” He responded, “I grow up. I’m not a baby anymore.” Tears came into my eyes as I smiled at him. Where has the time gone?