11 August 2011

Learning to ride a bike

To my shame, I must admit that my younger children did not get their own bikes until August of 2010, for their seventh and eighth birthdays, respectively.  Why not?  Well, we had moved to Illinois when the children were four and five, and we moved into an apartment building that had no storage space for bicycles.  We couldn't see the point of buying a bike for the boys when they would have no place to put it.

In July of 2010 we moved to a home in a suburban neighborhood - complete with a yard, a driveway of our own, and ~gasp~ a shed for storing bikes.  My husband suggested getting each child a bike for his birthday, and I agreed.  Jon's birthday is in July, and James and Jacob were born in August, so within six weeks of moving to our new home, all three boys had new bikes.

Jon already knew how to ride a bike, so I didn't have to work with him at all.  Sean and I both started out teaching the younger boys, but for some reason they didn't seem interested after the first couple of days.

"It's just too hard, Mom!  I didn't think it would be this hard."

Then the first snows came early, and thus halted bike learning for 2010.  I started up again in early summer this year (the spring was constantly rainy, so we hadn't had a chance before July to practice again).  This time I handled the training a bit differently...I focused on teaching just James.  The reason for this is simple - my youngest, Jacob, has a temper, and is stubborn as a mule.  When he fails to learn a new skill after the first couple tries, he crosses his arms and refuses to try anymore.  But he's also very competitive, and I knew that if James learned how to ride a bike first, Jacob's natural competitive nature would drive him to learn the skill in short order.

My plan worked like a charm.  I focused on James and within a week he was able to ride his bike all the way down the driveway before falling.  His shouts of joy and triumph drew Jacob, who watched him wobble down the driveway.  Jacob hugged his brother, congratulated him, then turned to me with a determined expression and said "I want to learn now!".

By the second week, James was riding to the corner and back without falling over once, and Jacob had mastered the driveway.  ~laughs~ I love it when psychology works!

This morning I took the boys out again.  James has been asking to ride around the block, which I was a bit leery about (our block is amazingly long - just walking around it is more than three quarters of a mile).  But I said if big brother Jon went with him, James could ride around the block.

While the two older boys were gone, Jacob rode down the driveway, turned, and rode about three houses down.  I watched as he attempted a U-turn (which he has never successfully done before).  And he made it - just barely, but he managed to turn around without falling off!  He spent the rest of the morning riding back and forth in front of our house, doing U-turns and riding back.  Every so often he would fall, but he got right back up and brought his bike back to start again.  You could just see the determination to catch up with his older brothers! 

By the end of August, I suspect I will have three skilled bike riders in the family.


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