My son has never really felt confident or comfortable riding a bike. He learned the basics at around age 7 after much prodding, cajoling, prompting and pushing on my part. My younger son got on and took off, never looking back, at the age of 4. But for son number one, the balancing, steering, pedaling and wobbling were all together too much for him. He got up there, he wobbled, he had it, he fell, over and and over and over again. With perspiration dripping down my back and my voice hoarse from shouting "you got it! you got it!" until I was blue in the face, he quit, refused to try again, and that was that.
Fast forward five and a half years later to my 12-year-old boy who has never had the wind at his back as he muses on life and the shadows in the trees, cruising at just past jogging speed but way slower than any car. The experience of riding a bike is so unique, so profound and, in my experience, such a part of childhood that for him to have never experienced this weighed heavy as bricks on my heart.
About three weeks ago my husband, in a spontaneous moment of clarity, saw a woman on a large, adult sized tricycle in our town, struck up a conversation with her, rode the trike around at her invitation, and subsequently ordered two of them from our local bike shop; one for himself to support our son, and one for my older, fearful boy.
Just the simple act of telling our son that not only were the trikes already ordered but that one was designated exclusively for him and one exclusively for his stepfather began to build an excitement for the day they would come in my lovely boy that I hadn't seen in, literally, years. This was not the shiny, addict's rush of getting a new video game or electronic. This was genuine, childhood excitement about moving one's body, powering a little vehicle, riding around the neighborhood as his brother has done and he felt he never could, being a boy, being a kid, fitting in, belonging, having freedom. And company in the form of a grown man who loved him.
So the tricycles came yesterday, were built in the shop, we drove to pick them up and my husband and I pedaled them the few miles home. Arriving at our house we realized the handlebars were in need of adjustment and the seats, too, so my husband worked for an hour on these. The two boys of mine sat around with their helmets on, anxiously awaiting the final result. Finally, they were ready.
And then a miracle happened.
My older boy put one leg through the space in front of the seat, grabbed the handlebars, sat himself down, and took off. Just like that. He rode and rode and rode some more, with his brother on the second one, with his stepfather on the second one, and with me watching him in the street, feeling like 50 bricks which had been laying on my heart had suddenly been removed forever.
Support and love can take so many different forms. But to find three wheels and handlebars that can help your child go from scared, sad, disempowered and shut down to excited, happy, exercising and motivated is worth all the quirkiness in the world. As Father's Day approaches, I'd like to say this: Hats off to a stepfather who thinks out of the box, who creatively loves his children, and who rides an adult tricycle with pride and confidence because it changes the life of a child. As I know from my own experience having been raised by the most patient, kind, loving, open minded step father ever, the job of parenting is no small one and step fathers need to realize what an impact they make, how they nurture and shape, how they change our lives.
Edited by Alison Stanton