A touch of spice: Pedal pushers

Just to update you, we're now down two bikes at my house -- compliments of the new driveway I've dreamed of for seven years and so excited to finally see.

I can't honestly say I wouldn't trade two bikes for it. Evidently, I have.

They're the first of many, my father tells me. He said I need to get into the habit of checking behind the car before I get in.

I'm thinking my girls need to get in the habit of putting their toys away when they're done with them. But when I say that, dad shakes his head in that "good-luck-with-that" way. To his credit, he doesn't actually say it. This is a lesson he'll let me learn on my own because I'm so obviously determined to do so anyway.

And I think my kids are stubborn.

Nikki's bike fared much better than Katie's. My new car also came out of that incident better than the first, something that really worked in Nikki's favor after the fact.

Anyway, while Katie's tire was completely destroyed, Nikki lost only a training wheel.

So, I'm thinking that, when I feel they've been punished enough, and I decide to fix their bikes, I'll be thrifty and cut a few corners. (Just an aside here: Their "punishment" means that instead of being outside, wearing themselves out by pedaling lap after lap around the driveway, they're inside wearing me out by doing lap after lap around my patience).

What I've decided to do is buy Katie a new tire and then give her training wheels to Nikki.

At 5-, almost 6-years-old, I figure it's time that Katie takes the next step in that progression toward adulthood -- two wheels.

I feel bad about the way I arrived at this conclusion.

Learning to ride a bike is a milestone that very few other transitions can match. I don't think that getting your driver's license even compares with that moment when you look back and realize that the person whose support you thought you couldn't live without actually let go. You're shocked, even a little hurt. Then you realize that you're doing it --that you can do it.

That single moment, I believe, is something that empowers children for the rest of their life. They might not remember that moment, but deep down they've got a confidence derived from that one second that started with "I can't" and ended with "I am."

Of course, tied to that feeling is the image of a person who, though they let go, is running alongside filled with unspeakable pride and is ready in an instant to praise, comfort, encourage and catch.

I'm certain there's little personal growth and not much warmth in that memory when the person who should be holding on yells "if you wanted four wheels, you shouldn't have left your bike behind the car!" as she pushes you down the street.

That would likely be one of those things I'll hear about when she's 35 and three years of therapy have traced all her problems to the day when her mom gave her training wheels to her sister.

After several years of detailing their actions and idiosyncrasies before the entire community, I probably have enough to worry about when the time to point fingers arrives.

So instead of being a thrifty mom (OK, OK, cheap works, too), I'll opt for being a good mom. At the time of the ... accident, Katie was just getting the hang of using the brakes, a skill she demonstrates 47 times in 65 feet of gradual downslope. We're also working to break her habit of watching the tire instead of the road.

Clearly, she's not altogether comfortable on a bike to begin with. So, I'll get her a new tire and Nikki a new training wheel and we'll make comforting memories of those first rides around the block.

We'll take the training wheels off when she's ready -- not when I am. Although that's not to say she won't get a little push, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

After all, I'm eventually going to let go whether she wants me to or not. It's always scary doing something new on your own -- sometimes you need a little push.

Until then, they'll continue making laps around the driveway, I'll continue to remind them to put their bikes away and I -- remembering the push I got and the times my broken bikes were made whole again -- will learn to look before backing up.

I guess parents never really stop giving a little push and then letting go to see how you'll do on your own.

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