One of the more amazing experiences of being a parent, for me, has been watching when the light goes on in a kid’s—my kid’s—head. Something suddenly clicks and they grok something that they didn’t just the day before. Whether reading, throwing a ball or riding a bike, that moment of understanding is stoketastic. I get why teachers do what they do.
When I shot the photo below some months back, Matthew was more enamored of the tricycle than the balance bike. While the razor scooter clicked for Philip at 22 months, Matthew didn’t get it at 32 months. Kids are different, right? Honestly, I wondered if I’d see things click for him in the same way, no matter the age. And maybe that was selling Matthew short, but I just wanted to let go of my own expectations enough to let him grow in whatever way he was inclined to.
Matthew’s interest in tools had me wondering if he might be more bike mechanic than bike rider. Whatevs. If it makes him happy, I’m good with that. His concern for making sure all tires are pumped up to an appropriate pressure is cuter than a kitten snuggling with a bunny. Just Google it.
Previously, he’d ride the balance bike (we have both a Skuut and the Isla Bikes Rothan) for a short distance and the moment his weight went one way the bike went another, he’d either step off or fall and then step off. He wasn’t feeling the stoke.
Last week, that changed. Following my return from Monterey and the Sea Otter Classic, he told me one afternoon that he wanted to try his bike. I asked for clarification as his tricycle is also a “bike.” When I realized he meant his balance bike, we were downstairs faster than he can recite the alphabet.
The Deuce has never had the surefooted balance and grace of his big brother. Just not the same kid. He doesn’t possess the same need for movement, to zoom through his environment. Rather than try to mold him into an image of me, or a copy of his brother, I’ve allowed him to find his own way and chase his own interests. He still loves Thomas the Train. OMG. And he knows every character on sight.
For three afternoons last week, the boys and I pulled bikes and roller skates out (Philip is as into roller skates as he is bikes right now) and rolled around our driveway. On Friday I noticed that Matthew was at a point that he was coasting upwards of four feet at a stretch. It was enough, I calculated, that he could improve on it if he had more momentum. Thanks to his trike he already knew how to pedal.
So on a weekend afternoon, as he was rolling around on the balance bike, I pulled out a box with the Specialized Hot Rock I’d purchased more than four years ago for Philip. I turned the bar, added pedals and then allowed him to help me pump up the tires.
Next, he stepped over the saddle, sat down and I steadied him as he put his feet on the pedals. I began pushing him and then gave one firm shove and off he went. I’m not sure who was more stoked. I couldn’t see either of our faces.
He’s growing quickly enough that he is almost too big for this 12-inch-wheel Hot Rock. And while I’ve got another Hot Rock with 16-inch wheels, and the saddle on this bike could be higher, I have left the saddle low so that he can easily get his feet to the ground if he needs to.
The first time he executed a U-turn and came coasting back toward me the light in his eyes was unmistakable. Flow. He’d just done something difficult and had lived to tell the tale. He rode for more than an hour yesterday. Getting him upstairs for dinner was nearly a matter of tears. And he was asleep on the floor moments after dinner. My wife told me he asked to go ride shortly after waking this morning.
It’s interesting to note that he still can’t start on his own—he needs a push from me, but he’s pretty adept at stopping and figured out the coaster brake right away. Philip killed a half dozen pairs of shoes before getting the hang of the coaster brake. Also he mostly only turns right so far.
The bike is now his favorite recreation. I’m beyond stoked, but really, the best part is just seeing him so lit up. His excitement, I’m learning, is better than my own.
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