The scream cut through the stillness of our rural road. Certain it could be heard from miles away, I almost posted on Facebook telling my local friends not to worry. My son wasn’t hurt; he was just riding his bike.
He tossed the bike in frustration as I worked to restrain my seething anger. I knew it was a risk when I required my 10-year-old to join his sister and me on a bike ride, but I didn’t quite expect this.
Not a Kid Who Rides Bikes
At one point, he looked at me with maturity beyond his years and presented his case. “Mom, I’m just not a kid who likes riding bikes.”
His even-tempered plea gave me pause. I don’t want to be one of those parents who forces her kids to do what they don’t want to do, except for church and chores, of course. I want to listen and not place my kid in a box. Even a fun box with wheels and a handlebar. Besides, every kid should like bike riding for Pete’s sake!
Please Don’t Make Me
At Christmas, my husband and I decided to buy our 6-year-old daughter a new bicycle. Knowing she would find this exhilarating present on Christmas morning and want to ride it on Christmas Day, I sat with my son one night to have another serious conversation. “Drew, your sister is getting a bike for Christmas.” I intended to make sure he wouldn’t be disappointed if he didn’t get a bicycle, too, but I didn’t get another word out when he interrupted, “Please don’t make me ride with her on CHRISTMAS DAY!” His main concern was not that he wouldn’t get a shiny two-wheeler but that he might be forced to ride on Christmas.
Could it be that my kid really wasn’t going to be a kid who rides bikes?
The Parenting Crossroads
I stood at a crossroads between wanting to consider his opinion but knowing riding a bike is something he needed to know how to do.
And he should like it doggonit.
So one day, a few months after the screaming fit-pitching episode, I forced him to ride bikes again. His improved skills from the first day meant there was less screaming but no less fit-pitching.
Watching my 10-year-old ride on a bike made for his sister’s size, I realized he’d enjoy the experience much more if his knees didn’t hit his chest as he pedaled. My husband and I knew part of his problem was that the bike didn’t fit him, but we didn’t want to spend money on a new bike for to only sit in the garage.
On a pretty day this week, my husband and I decided that we wanted to ride bikes as a family that afternoon, so we planned to pick the kids up from school and take Drew to pick out his very own bike – one appropriate for his size.
The complaining began the minute we told him of our special plans. Again, we worked to restrain our anger at our son who protested upon discovering he would get to pick out his own brand new bike. In most cases we would have turned the truck around and gone straight home. But that’s exactly what he wanted. Instead, we bit our tongues and took him to the store.
His tone changed as he tried out different bikes. After settling on the mountain bike, we headed home and rode our bicycles as a family. Again, we endured some fussing as Drew adjusted to the new size and the gears. But I saw something I hadn’t seen before: a hint of pleasure.
As we put our bikes up for the evening, Drew admitted, almost in a whisper, “Mom, I kind of like riding my bike.” I smiled and tried not to act too satisfied in front of him. Inside, I beamed with pride.
The next two mornings before school, he got dressed early and came to me. The sun hadn’t even crested the horizon when he asked, “Mom, can I ride my bike?”
Music to my ears.
For 30 minutes, my “not a bike-riding-kid” rode his bike until it was time to go to school.
I guess forcing my son to ride a bike was the right parenting move after all. We went with our gut, and we were right. He just needed a little tough love and prodding.
All the screaming was worth it. And I think he’d agree.
Let’s just hope he doesn’t get a wild hair to want a motorcycle in six years. Because I may have to whip out the tough love again.