This year for Christmas Dev got his first “real” bike. Living in New York has made me less than interested in him owning bike but the missus and I buckled down and got one anyway. It was a somewhat testosterone driven decision because I know somewhere in my man-brain that a kid should have a bike at his age. The issue for me is safety. People zoom up and down our otherwise quiet residential blocks all the time. It’s not like when I was five years old riding my bike through the lazy Florida streets. Someone jumped the curb the other night over here and plowed through a fence. Luckily the house on the lot was just being built. Around here drivers like to honk their horns as they speed through intersections. I personally didn’t even get another bike once I moved to NY almost 20 years ago because this city was a bit over the top with the way they ignored cyclists (plus I was po’). The only way, it seems, to have good safe fun on a bike is to go to a park.
We have a great park near our home. I will not describe it fully because I do not want to see you there – I like the peace and quiet that it offers on almost every day and you may disrupt that. (I’m kidding! Mostly.) Anyway, it’s a few acres of rural oasis in the middle of the ‘hood. The only thing is that to get there I have to load Dev’s darn bike into the car because walking is 25 minutes of five lane boulevards and waiting for lights to change and mean drivers who would rather see you beneath the wheels of their SUV than you safely across the street – and driving is five minutes. Once there I have to find the right spot, to start teaching.
The boy can’t ride very well, not even with training wheels. That part doesn’t bother me as much today, as of this writing, as it did last week when I first figured out that he couldn’t ride very well. For some reason he can’t keep his feet on the pedals and he can’t turn a corner on an upright bike. At first I didn’t get it. I figured that balance was the only thing that you needed to teach a kid, not the fundamentals. Then I searched back into the dark recesses of my mind and tried to remember how I learned to ride. I was about his age, though I had a Knight Rider big wheel before my first bike. But what stood out in my mind’s eye was not that I was learning to ride as a five year old, it was who taught me. My brothers and the kids from the neighborhood taught me how to ride. My father was not there.
I then started to think about learning to throw a football and baseball, building forts, building with legos, and all the other stuff that kids do. Again I came up with brothers and friends and on occasion their fathers. So is that the “out”? Is a child having siblings a parent’s way, or excuse for, shunting certain responsibility? But someone had to teach my oldest brother in order for him to teach us, right? I’ll have to ask him. In my father’s defense, or whatever, he was allegedly sick at the time. He must have been suffering with the neurological disease that follows him to this day and, at the time, doctors didn’t understand. It was 25 years ago after all.
I’m not bitter, just a little boggled. I think that teaching a kid to ride a bike is a dad thing, or a mom thing in some instances. If you want to get really traditional dad teaches to ride, mom does the necessary triage afterward. To have no memory of my dad teaching certain things is weird to me. I hesitate to say he didn’t because maybe he did and I don’t recall, though that seems unlikely. All I know is that I’m going to prep my son for spring by running my bigger-than-should-be butt behind his new bike until he gets it right. Then after all these years I may just buy myself a bike and join him – in the park of course.