Saturday, September 16, 2006

Back to Basics

One of the downsides of having a trail-a-bike is that Zoe (who is almost 8) has managed to avoid riding her own bike for quite a while. She's never been that keen, to be perfectly honest. Not a natural daredevil. Anything new or different has had to be introduced very carefully, and any physical challenge, or anything involving adrenalin, has required advance notice, psyching up, and gradually getting her to realise that it is a) possible, and b) either a bit of a hoot, or it gives you a sense of accomplishment!

Riding in the bike seat used to scare her, particularly if she wasn't psyched up for it. I learned to call ahead to preschool to prepare her if I'd decided to come and pick her up on the bike, after much screaming and tantrumming when I once turned up on the bike as a surprise. (With no alternative to getting her home, how bad do you feel physically strapping your child in to a bike seat, and setting off down the hill with her screaming her head off!)

Teaching her to ride without trainer wheels was an excruciating process. We'd been spoilt with the other two who only needed a few sessions on a deserted netball court to get the hang of it. (Alison needed only the one.) All of that was a Daddy job, as my back would never have coped with the bent-over running-alongside-bike action required. I remember one time them coming home in a right old state after a clash of wills, and Zoe refusing to try what she had already accomplished earlier.

She finally could do it, but then avoided riding. (Most kids find the release from their trainer wheels their finding of freedom; not so our Zoe!) Meantime we went the trail-a-bike option so we didn't have to wait till she was 13 or so to join us on family rides!

She outgrew the 16 inch wheel bike throughout this period of procrastination, and so the move onto Cait's old 24 inch bike has been a quantum leap for her. and fraught with all her anxieties.(Admittedly the others were a teeny bit older when they were bought those bikes new - but I also think Zoe has had an earlier growth spurt than they did. Certainly she was way too tall for the old bike, and it was particularly an issue because she couldn't/wouldn't stand up on the pedals (and still can't.) We have tried to get her out on it, because it is practice, practice, practice she needs, but all the other riding has taken priority a bit, and to be frank, it's a very frustrating process.

Today I decided it was time to revisit this. Earlier I declared that today was riding day. (Rule 1. Give advance warning.) Surprisingly she didn't argue when I gave the 'shoes on' order. And out we went (after a tyre pumping session that Daddy would have been pleased to see.)

And, oh boy, it had been too long. The old 'one step forward, two steps back'. Plans of practising the route to school were quickly shelved, and it was back to getting used to starting off again...

We clocked up around 5 km in the end, just going round the local streets. I wish somebody could invent a patience pill. While she is not a natural on the bike, I am not a natural at being patient and encouraging! To be brutally honest, you've never seen a kid more awkward at handling her bike - getting the pedals in the 'right' position to start, stumbling around half tripping if she had to pick the bike up after 'overbalancing' - ah poor Zoe. I did only get cross once.. and I did get better with her, especially when we "lost" the other two, who were basically just a distraction she didn't need.

We spent some time trying to explain the gear changes for her. Seems a bit silly, when we realised more than a year after Alison got her bike that she'd left the gear stuck on one ring, and just stood on the pedals when she needed to go up hill! No way in the world is Zoe going to stand on the pedals.. not yet.. so I figure she needs the assistance of the gears to get up and down the 'inclines' we might come across.

She did do better by the end. Lesson for Mum - she is going to have to be taken out way way WAY more often.

I am not sure how to teach her how to stand on the pedals. Marc and I disagree on the merits of riding on grass. Today I took her across the park, because I thought the different surface might help. (Maybe spongier grass might stand in for a 'hill'.)

I will have to content myself with the knowledge that some parents struggle through things like the process of getting their kids to read or write, and Zoe just took to that like a duck to water. And who am I to talk. Here I am in a tizz about a 7 year old's bike riding, and I never got a bike, or learnt to ride one, till I was 12 !!! How times have changed.


Text from Marc 10.30 this evening (3.30 pm Lithuania time) - while I was editing this post! - Bike is packed. She's a beauty. Looks like he has a day of sight seeing in Vilnius tomorrow. I had never heard of Vilnius before this!!

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