To counterbalance my last post, in which everything was going so well, I thought I would share with you an example of my poor parenting, this time of the other child.
Poor Owen. Like me, he is a bit physically uncoordinated. On Sunday, in Ottawa, he was so anxious to run but we were on sidewalks and crossing streets, so we had him wait until we got to an open space. In front of the National Gallery, he was free. One, two, three, four, five running steps and trip and hands and head and knees scrape rip… down he went. As he said later, reflectively, shaking his head, “My pants were not broken when I crossed the street.” True enough, they were not.
He loves gymnastics class, but has more trouble than most with anything that involves moving against gravity (which is kind of what gymnastics is). When I watch him try to do a cartwheel (gamely: he is really trying), I remember my own attempts with a childhood friend. She could do cartwheels like a champion; I could not. She could leap. I fell in a ditch up to my waist in mud. Anyway, like mother, like son.
So Friday, we had decided, was the day that the training wheels would come off the bicycle. And this is an example of bad (read: competitive) parenting. Because I feel like a 5-year-old should be able to ride a bike without training wheels. Why? I feel this in part because Owen is bigger than most 5-year-olds and since he looks like he’s 8, maybe parents are judging me for not encouraging him to be active enough and … do you see at all what is going on? Why on earth do I care what other people, most of them strangers, think of my child’s cycling skills?
With Seamus in the stroller and Owen on his bike (training wheels on), we made our way down our steep, steep hill into the village. At the parking lot of the community centre, I undid the training wheels and started helping Owen the way I remember my dad doing with me, or the way you see in movies. I thought in a worst case scenario he would gain some confidence, in a best case scenario I would be able to let go and he would sail around by himself.
I had not anticipated that he would let go of the bicycle and cling to me in terror, leaning so steeply that it was all I could do to keep him and the bike from keeling over. I had not anticipated that he would start crying and run away from me (and the bike). I had not anticipated that once I had convinced him (with threats, I think) to get back on the bike, that he would brake so we couldn’t go anywhere at all. I had not anticipated my anger and, I confess, my embarrassment (we were in a parking lot… other people saw my inept parenting). I was rough with him – way, way too rough. And he was apologizing the whole time. “I’m sorry, Mummy, but I don’t trust myself.”
Eventually, once he started braking (good strategy, kid), I got the hint and put those training wheels back on, where they will stay for a while. Here’s the thing. I love riding a bike. I kept telling Owen that once he gets it, he will love it too. I told him that he will get it eventually. But then I pushed him way too far. I am writing this down in part to remind myself of what I already know: that kids will progress at their own pace. If I think back, Owen was a little slow at all of his movements (rolling over at 8 months, walking at 14 months), but he got there every time. It is possible that he will never do a cartwheel. I know I never will. But I am convinced that he will eventually ride a bike. Now I just need to back right off and let him get there on his own.