Honk If You Know How to Ride
by Jody Robinson
Last summer one of my twin sons learned to ride his bike without training wheels. It was a glorious day for him! Many accolades were given and he proudly joined the million other kids forming the ranks of two wheeled riders. His twin, however,did not. Though his one-minute older brother sped past without the clumsiness of four wheels, Caleb was perfectly content to take the slower road. The protection and safety of extra wheels firmly on the ground was worth the cost of speed.
However, one day this spring, one of Caleb’s treasured training wheels fell off. After a few attempts by me, his mechanically-challenged Mommy, to reinstall the wheel, it was still abdicating its helpfulness on a regular basis. Basically, he needed to learn to ride with the help of just one training wheel if he wanted to ride. The news was received with grumbling and a very sour face. But to motivate and encourage abandoning the training wheels altogether, I offered that when both of the twins knew how to ride without training wheels, we would go to the store and buy horns for their bikes. The grumbling was quickly drowned out by the other twin’s shouts of encouragement and jubilation at the thought of the shiny horn waiting with his name on it.
My Caleb suffered through a few more sniffles and whines before pulling together some gumption and learning to ride with only the one extra wheel. While I was so proud of him for attempting the risk, he sure was a peculiar sight! He actually rode down the sidewalk leaning to the left side so his training wheel stayed on the ground. There was no balancing involved at all! The boy was totally dependent upon his training wheel to keep him riding down the sidewalk. It didn’t seem to bother him in the least that he was practically hanging off of his seat and viewing the world at a 30 degree angle.
Yesterday, for reasons unknown to all of mankind, I decided to let the kids ride their bikes on our daily walk. When we walk together I have a rule that we cross streets together. Even if one child races down the sidewalk, he must stop and wait for the rest of us before going onto the next block. Three-wheeled Caleb kept lagging behind. It is understandably difficult to ride down brick streets, up sidewalk ramps, and over uneven concrete when you're leaning to the left all the time! The other kids were literally riding circles around him in an effort to keep themselves entertained while waiting for Caleb to reach the corner. Relying on his training wheel prevented him from learning to balance the bicycle, so every time he hit a medium sized bump, Caleb fell down. He came to realize walking his bike was often faster than riding it.
After a frustrating time of riding his bike, walking his bike and simply melting down in tears, something had to be done. I took the third wheel off. If a training wheel was going to cause so much trouble, the child would have to learn to do without it. There’s no time like the present to learn to ride a bike, right? Thus began his protesting attempts to ride without his extra wheel. Everyone could quickly see the problem. He kept leaning to the left! The use of the third wheel trained his body to lean to the left while pedaling. But now the very thing that had kept him from falling was causing his detriment! To ride sitting straight up and down seemed impossible for him. Time after time I’d hold the back of his seat. Yet, as soon as I let go, he’d lean to the left and invariably crash to the sidewalk.
I didn't know what else to suggest besides, “STOP LEANING TO THE LEFT! THERE IS NO WHEEL THERE!!” After 15 minutes of unsuccessful attempts, and with a Mean Mommy Funk beginning to rear its head, I mentally put this on Daddy's list of things to do: teach Son how to ride bike. But there was a slight problem with my plan--we were still twenty minutes from home. It looked like it was to be the longest twenty minutes of our lives.
Until, on attempt 863 of trying, Caleb was able to ride for an entire four feet without falling. Four feet!!!!! Four blessed feet without me holding onto the back of his bike seat. And he was almost, sort of, sitting vertically. The Mean Mommy Funk that descended upon me during the first 862 agonizing attempts to “STOP LEANING!” was abruptly lifted. In fact, I was able to apply my easiest parenting skill: Encouragement. “YOU DID IT, SON!!!!!! YOU RODE YOUR BIKE ALL BY YOURSELF!!!!!! WOOOOO HOOOOO!!! YES!!!LET'S DO IT AGAIN!”
Caleb had turned a corner! (Not a literal corner, because we were still just working on going straight.) But Caleb’s life was never the same after those four feet. Four feet became forty feet within minutes. Forty feet became infinite within moments. Even as these events were playing out in real time, God was speaking to me and I knew I'd write this story down.
These are the lessons learned while watching my son learn to ride his bike.
1. We build barriers in our lives to protect ourselves.(Caleb’s training wheel)
2. We rely so heavily on those barriers we actually prevent true intimacy with God. (We don't want to takethe training wheel off.)
3. Someday, somehow that barrier will fall down. (Mommy decided today.)
4. We still keep trying to rely on it instead of relying on God. (Stop leaning to the left or you'll keep falling.)
5. We get a taste, a small glimpse, of intimate life with God. (4 feet.)
6. Encouragement from others who are intimate with God is imperative to success. (WOOOO HOOO!!You CAN do this!!!!)
7. Living life as you were created to live it brings everlasting JOY!!!
Last night, my husband took our twin boys to buy some shiny new bicycle horns.