I tried to teach my son to ride a bike the other day.
We started by pulling my old bike out of the garage. It's one of those nice Schwinn ten speeds with a mirror on the side. I hadn't ridden the thing in a decade so it wasn't really in riding shape, but after pumping a little air in the tires and tossing some oil on the chain it was good as new.
My wife asked what we were doing and if maybe it wouldn't be better to use some training wheels. I told her that no nineteen year old needed training wheels. She shook her head and watched from the driveway.
With the kickstand propping the bike up, I placed my son on the seat. "Hold on to the handles," I told him before stepping back and admiring him.
"Now what?" my wife asked.
"Now we ride," I said with a proud smile. "Ready, son?"
He looked at me with fear in his eyes. I could tell he didn't want to disappoint.
I stepped behind him and held his shoulders. My left foot removed the kickstand's hold on gravity. For a moment we stayed in perfect balance. He turned around and gave me a "we're doing it" look. Tears welled in my eyes. It was the first time I felt like a real dad.
I know I should've stopped there. We'd already accomplished so much. But I'm a stubborn man so I pressed on.
"Now I'm going to push you." He nodded bravely. I pushed the bike forward while gripping his shoulders. The pedals moved as if propelled by some magic force.
I knew we both felt the same joy in that moment, so I decided to go for it. He deserved it. I deserved it. My wife deserved it. With a strong shove I released my grip and watched the boy and his bike sail for fifteen or twenty feet.
And then the bike came crashing down and his legless body spilled onto the pavement. My wife and I both ran to him expecting broken bones and tears. Instead we were greeted by the goofiest grin we'd ever seen.
I dropped down to my knees to pick him up. I wanted to say I was sorry for dropping him, but he shouted out "A-ghin" before I could say a word.
We repeated the same routine at least a dozen more times that day. He never seemed to mind the fall, shouting "A-ghin" each time I went to check on him. The last time I swear he went forty feet before the bike tumbled over.
When we finally put the bike away, I told him how he was a natural. He grinned and gave me a hug as I carried him inside.
Tomorrow he wants me to teach him how to jump rope. I can't wait.
published 28 December 2011