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Back In The Saddle Again

When Maddie was four years old, she fell off her bike. She was riding in a bike-a-thon and a couple boys her age came whizzing around the corner, skimming too close to my slow-and-steady girl, and tipped her over. Ever since then Maddie’s refused to ride her bike. At all. Every once in a while I’d bring it up and suggest giving it a try and Maddie would say, “I am too scared to. Remember the time I was riding my bike and I fell off it?”

Yes. Yes, I do. I’ve remembered it for the past three and a half years.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned with Maddie and her fears, though, it’s that you can’t force her through them. Love, don’t shove, remember? Every time I’ve tried to shove her through something it’s ended disastrously. Maddie comes around in her own time, and then quickly moves to the “I can’t believe I was ever afraid of that!” phase.

This weekend, we came to the light at the end of the biking tunnel.

As Maddie and I were heading out for horseback riding lessons Saturday morning, she looked around the garage and said, “Mommy, do you have a bike helmet?”

“No, honey, I don’t,” I replied. “Because I don’t have a bike.”

Maddie looked shocked. “How come you don’t have a bike?”

“Well, when would I ever get to ride it?” I replied not unreasonably. “I would enjoy going for short bike rides, but it’d mean leaving you at home. Can you imagine how you’d feel if I said, ‘Hey, kiddo, I’m going for a relaxing bike ride, see you in an hour’? Biking is something I’d like to do as a family, I think,” I finished.

Maddie responded quickly, “Well, I’m too scared to ride my bike, you know, even though I’m sure it would be fun.”

I nodded calmly. “I know, kiddo, you’ve been too scared since you were four years old. Do you realize, though, that’s almost half your lifetime ago? That’s a pretty long time ago. And I think that there will come a point when you see all your friends riding their bikes, going quickly from house to house in the neighborhood, and your desire to be part of that fun will be larger than your fear of falling off. All in your own time, though – you’ll get there at your own speed.”

Maddie was silent. And then – “I think I’d like to try riding my bike again when we get home this afternoon.”

And so we brought that bike out and dusted it off and pumped up the flat tires and Maddie took it for a spin. At first she looked like she was riding a clown bike, so long are her legs now compared to her four-year-old self, and even after we raised the seat all the way we saw she really needs a bigger bike. But she was out there, riding along, training wheels rasping loudly along with her.

And Cora? Well, we pumped up her little bike too and she was off like a shot. The only reason Cora hasn’t been riding her bike is because she hasn’t had anyone model it for her. And when we get a new bike for Maddie Cora will easily be riding Maddie’s current bike.

So we tooled around for a bit on Saturday afternoon, me borrowing Gamma’s bike, and then some more on Monday afternoon. And then Tuesday morning Maddie elected to ride her bike to school instead of her scooter.

I was silent at the news, not wanting to discourage her but a bit fearful some older kids might tease my almost-eight-year-old for riding a bike with training wheels still. Maddie seemed to read my thoughts.

“At first I didn’t want to ride my bike because I’m a bit embarrassed at having training wheels,” she said. “But then I decided that if anyone asks me I’ll just tell them we’re about to take them off and just haven’t gotten to it yet. Soon, though,” she said, and nodded to herself as if sealing the deal.

To-do list:
Conquer a big three-and-a-half-year-old fear: Check.


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