Spoiler Alert: This post is not about Austin’s cancer. I know, you’re thinking, “Wait a minute! You mean there are other things in the world for Krissy to think about, write about, care about?” Actually, yes. So this one is about riding a bike.

You know how people always say, “It’s just like riding a bike,” meaning that once you’ve done it, it’s so easy to do again? Well, that’s not always the case. And this is not some great metaphor or analogy. I am literally talking about riding a bike.

Braedan learned to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels last summer, when he was just 4. We were all pretty impressed with this accomplishment, especially Braedan himself. I would take him on runs with me, which was great fun for both of us (and way easier than  pushing him in the jogging stroller). The only problem was that the bike we bought him was too tall. We knew this was the case, but figured it made sense to buy one he could grow into instead of needing to buy a new one each year. So last summer, when his feet couldn’t reach the ground, Mark or I had to race along behind him and help him stop. He grew pretty accustomed to this and I think it gave him a sense of security knowing that we were there to catch him each time he faltered (again, I mean that literally as well as figuratively).

Who needs a bike when you've got this? May 2008

Who needs a bike when you've got this? May 2008

So now that it’s finally (finally!) showing signs of springtime in Cleveland, we pulled his bike out of the garage, dusted it off and were all set to go. I excitely told him that he’d be able to ride it on his own this year without needing us to stop him every time because he’s so much taller (as evidenced by his pants that keep “shrinking”). He stood over the seat with both feet firmly on the ground while I invoked my dad’s best pre-game coaching speeches. He’d be independent, he was such a big boy, not needing his parents’ help anymore! 

To no avail. He refused to even try. “No. I can’t do it. I’ll fall.” We went back and forth, me encouraging, him denying, never getting anywhere.

“But you know how to ride a bike,” I implored. “You did this all last summer. You were great at it.”

Still nothing. So I switched tactics, reminding him that new things were hard for everyone and we all failed in the beginning but that was the only way we ever learned. Do you know how many times Babe Ruth struck out? I wanted to ask but since he doesn’t know who Babe Ruth is and doesn’t even know what striking out means, I dropped that favorite line of high school counselors everywhere.

And then I decided, without really deciding, that it would be wise to shame my child into doing something that scared him: “It was big deal that you could ride your bike when you were four,” I taunted. “But now that you’re five, everyone can ride a two-wheeler.” All the kids are doing it. Is this really the parental wisdom I want to impart? Do it because all your peers are doing it and they might laugh at you if you can’t?

Oh boy. I cleared my head and dropped the subject altogether. We played on the swingset for the rest of the morning and then I pulled them to school in the wagon. But it bothered me. Why wasn’t he willing to try? What is he so afraid of?

I don’t have the answer, no brilliant last paragraph of resolution, no touching description of Braedan zooming down the sidewalk on his big boy bike, waving goodbye over his shoulder. The bike is sitting in the garage, awaiting that moment when he decides, on his own terms, that he’s ready to try again. I know he’ll be able to do it and I know he’ll be thrilled when he does. And I know I’ll watch him proudly and then suddenly turn wistful and think, “Oh, my baby. Why does he have to grow up so fast? Why doesn’t he need me anymore?”