A great thing happened this summer. My daughter called me from her father’s and announced, “I can ride a bike!”
Yes, my daughter is now almost nine years old and has FINALLY learned to ride a bike. Neither her father nor I taught her how to. In this day and age, when you can pay people to do pretty much anything, bike riding is no exception. There is, in fact, a day camp for people like me and her dad called Pedalheads that promises to teach your child how to ride a bike in five days (of course they practice all morning.) But because my daughter was in art camp the week her father had her, he hired a counselor from the camp to teach her in the early evening.
Yes, my daughter had private bike-riding lessons. And I was thrilled!
From the ages of four to six, prime bike-riding lesson time, I was a single mother. There was no way I could teach my daughter to ride a bike. Not because I’m not good at riding a bike. I love riding a bike. But I was terrified to imagine her falling off and hurting herself. I was sure that I couldn’t handle it. Her father is the same way. He’s an avid bike rider but there’s no way he was going to teach her. I thought, often, to get the aid of one of my brothers to help, but felt guilty since they have their own busy lives. So, thanks to five hours (one hour each day) of private lessons, she finally knows how to ride a bike. Thank God.
There are two things I think every child should know how to do. Riding a bike is one. And swimming is the other. My daughter loves to swim, and she took those swimming lessons with a number of other children. She sort of got it. But I wasn’t entirely sure she could swim that well. So we hired a lifeguard for a week of private lessons for her too when she was four years old, and she’s been swimming like she’s going to try out for the Olympics ever since. She has no fear of the water.
I remember my father teaching me to drive when I turned 16 in his standard car. It was possibly (next to labor pains) the most traumatic memory of my life. There was a lot of yelling on his end (and he’s a pretty patient person) and a lot of crying on my end (which is what happens when you stall repeatedly in a major intersection and someone is YELLING at you.) When my daughter learns to drive, you can bet your life savings that I will not be the one teaching her.
Learning to ride a bike is kind of a rite of passage of parenting, or so it seems. But do the parents actually have to do it? I don’t think so. If we hadn’t hired a private counselor to teach my daughter how to ride a bike (me being too terrified of seeing her hurt herself, her father busy with work and not the most patient kind of person when it comes to that sort of thing) then she never would have learned. And I think, when it comes to swimming, bike riding, and even learning a different language, kids need to learn earlier than later, before they get scared.
Truthfully, I’ll admit it when I can’t do something – like teaching my daughter to ride a bike. I can’t sing, so I’ve signed my daughter up for singing lessons so someone else can teach her how. Is this really any different?
There are certain things that I believe it’s okay to shell out – outsource, if you will – because if you can’t do it, and someone can, well the proof is in the pudding. My daughter can now ride a bike and is not scared at all. Though in my opinion she should have learned years ago, at least she now knows how to now. On the other hand, maybe it’s not so much a rite of passage that parents have to do. I mean, I taught her how to throw up in a toilet and how to brush her teeth. I toilet trained her and got her off the bottle. I get her off to school every morning and take her to all her extracurricular activities. In the grand scheme of things, is it really THAT important to teach riding a bike to a child if someone else can do it better, and you don’t have to worry about where the closest hospital is? I think it was worth every penny. She didn’t get hurt, her father and I didn’t get frustrated, and my daughter loved her private lessons.
When did HAVING to teach your child how to bike ride become a rite of passage for parents anyway? Who are these super strong and patient parents who don’t freak out at the thought of seeing their kid fall, time and time again? I never professed to be a bike riding teacher. She was in definite better hands with the professional. Obviously. Because she can now, finally, ride a bike. And, truthfully, I don’t really think she cared who taught her. She’s just so happy that she can ride like the wind.