Aspen Princess: Sit back and chill a bit, Mom
The Aspen Princess
“I don’t want it. Put it ’way,” my 3-year old son says, walking away from the red bike I’d literally just bought for him.
It’s that iconic little red bike with training wheels and racing flag graphics little boys dream of, and I’d bought it without really giving a ton of thought. Levi already has a bike. It’s a beautiful wood balance bike with flames on the side that our dear friend gave him for his first birthday because he wanted to be the one to give him his first bike. When I saw that bike, I cried. I love that bike.
Levi, not so much.
Balance bikes are all the rage these days because it makes the transition to a pedal bike easier than with training wheels. Balance bikes also are lighter and much easier to handle.
That must be true because I’ve seen plenty of 2-year-olds rip the pump track on these things like a little school of fish, swarming around and around. Every Tuesday at Crown Mountain they have balance bike races and there is a 2-year-old category. We went once last year and watched as Levi’s little buddy Rya, a tiny, little tow-headed blonde, did circles around him while he stood there and watched.
“He’s only 2,” I said, not thinking much about it.
One year later, Levi still has no interest in the balance bike. He just walks with it, but won’t sit on the seat and push with his feet or roll. In fact, whenever he does begin to roll, he immediately puts his feet back firmly onto the ground before the momentum can carry him any farther.
We’re a little perplexed by this, considering the kid shows no fear of speed on skis. The only reason he’s still skiing on a leash is because even though he can turn both ways and has great balance, he doesn’t know how to stop. He also showed no fear of straight lining — not a good combo. Still, at his young age, he shows many promising signs of being a natural athlete. He has good hand-eye coordination and is very sure-footed. We also like that he is careful and not reckless, always scoping things out before he dives in.
I thought maybe the balance bike wasn’t fun for him. I thought maybe if he could pedal, he would like it more. I’d talked to other parents who said they had one child who loved the balance bike and another that hated it, so they used a pedal bike instead.
Let me pause here to tell a little story: When Levi was one and a half years old, we got him this three-wheeler plastic thing called a Mopi. It was super light and small, and we’d heard it was a great way to get really little ones going on wheels. He loved the Mopi and took off like a rocket on that thing. We’d laugh, clutching our sides, as we watched him tear around Arbanney Park and nearly go “ass over tea kettle” (as Ryan likes to say) when he careened, full speed, into a crack in the sidewalk. There he was, front tire nose down, rear tire in mid-air for what felt like a good 10 seconds as we watched, helpless to do anything about it. Miraculously, the thing righted itself and he continued on, unscathed. Ryan and I laughed about that for weeks.
What wasn’t so funny was when we were taking a little ride down the Rio Grande Trail with a group of friends and their kids and Levi headed down a very steep hill on that little Mopi and somehow, no one jumped in to stop him. This time, he did wipeout. The speed was too much for the tiny little trike, and he went flying off the trail and into the grass, somehow unharmed.
I’m pretty sure that somewhere in his little brain, he remembers that fall. He remembers the sensation of gravity and speed and being out of control.
When we pulled into the Crown Mountain parking lot, I could hardly contain my excitement. “I have a surprise for you,” I told him. “It’s in the back!”
I pulled out the bike and he was intrigued at first. “Wow,” he said, imitating the way Ryan and I talk. “That’s awesome! Thank you, Mommy!”
I put him on and tried to explain how to pedal, but he just kept pushing the pedals backward and engaging the brakes. I had to bend down and push his feet around the proper way to get him going. “See?” I said, trying not to sound too exasperated. “That’s how it works.”
Still, he kept engaging the brakes, and I kept trying to explain it in different ways until he finally said, “Stop it, Mom! You’re driving me crazy!”
He managed to extract himself from the bike and walk away. I figure at some point, a switch will flip in his brain and he will ride a bike when he is ready, just like he did with toilet training. Or maybe biking won’t be his thing, and he’ll want to spend his summers inside, learning to play the violin or paint with watercolors or read Harry Potter books.
I think every parent goes through it, those moments of wanting their kid to like something because they do, and then feeling disappointed or even frustrated when they don’t. My own mother loves to tell the story about when I was 5 years old and she tried to put me in ballet, and I hated it. One day I turned to her and said, “If you like ballet, why don’t you take a ballet class?” She did just that.
I like the idea of letting our kids tell us what they’re interested in and really, truly listening. Push them too far and they might just end up in that ditch, ass over tea kettle.
The Princess is dying to get out on her bike. Send your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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