Monday, May 27, 2013

Teaching a City Kid New Tricks

There are certain things that change when you move from the suburbs to the city, especially when you have kids.  The ease (or not) of parking, lack of green space, access to activities, closeness of neighborhoods, etc etc.  One more example is sports.  Without a yard or cul de sac neighborhoods, often times sports can be a challenge for our kids living in the city.

We have a huge patio.  They don't use it nearly enough.  We have a basketball hoop out there and they'll play hockey or even kick the soccer ball around.  But they are drawn to the streets which in a city, is not necessarily safe.  However, we live on a small one way side street - so while it's not Bernardo Drive by any means, it's pretty safe and they can play outside (supervised of course because it's still a city street).  Aidan can skateboard and Liam can scooter and they are pretty happy.  Just up the street is a small square where they also like to kick the ball around and often times scooter.

But notice I mentioned scootering but no biking.  Aidan, who LOVED to ride his bicycle at home has all but given it up here in the city.  It annoys him having to stop at every corner, just when he gets going, in order to look for traffic.  In Gracia, our neighborhood, there isn't a lot of traffic compared to being in the center, however, there are still cars like in any neighborhood.  But unlike our neighborhood at home, it's a grid and full of intersections which means stopping to look both ways constantly.  It's far easier to stop on the scooter than on the bike.

And so, much to my sadness, Aidan never ever rides his bike.  I'd say it's been over a year at least.  But I've gotten back on a bike kick - without my ability to run much these days, I've been looking for a new form of cardio.  Biking it is.  And so since Josh has been exercising more, I thought this might be a good way for us to all spend some family time together and get some exercise - bonus.

But Liam doesn't know how to ride a bike.  He had one of those non pedal bikes that he was incredibly adept at but could only go as fast as his little feet would take him (which actually was fairly fast).  It wasn't great on non paved surfaces either.  And recently, it finally fell apart.  To me, this was the sign that it was time for a "real" bike, with pedals.

I asked him over and over again (in that annoying mom trying to convince a child of something way) if he wanted a bike for his birthday.  He kept saying no.  I kept asking.  He kept telling me to stop asking because he didn't want a bike.  But I was determined.  He was turning 6 and to me this is a right of passage to learn to ride a bike.  Aidan was riding without training wheels by 4 and here Liam is 6 and has never even gotten on a bike WITH training wheels.  I felt behind the 8 ball.  This wasn't about keeping up with the Joneses and that other kids knew how to ride a bike and therefore so should he.  It was about something that as a kid I always loved to do and when Aidan was small and lived in the burbs, he rode his bike every day and loved it.  I wanted this for Liam.  But he was determined to buck me every step of the way.

I didn't buy the bike for Liam's birthday.  A week later I was in the mall shopping for Aidan's birthday and I was in a sports store.  I saw training wheels in the store and thought, hmmm, rather than spending the money on a bike that Liam says he doesn't want, what if I put training wheels on Aidan's bike that he doesn't ride?

Well, Aidan was pissed.  I even offered to buy him a bigger better bike since that one is almost too little for him now.  No, he wanted his bike.  So I told him, if at any point he wants to ride it, it takes less than 2 minutes to remove the training wheels and I would be happy to do so.  Not once did he ask me to do it.  Liam tried it, liked it, got off.  It lasted about 3 minutes.  He was frustrated with the pedals and the braking - he couldn't get the hang of the fact, like most kids when they first start to ride, not to push backwards on the pedals.  He tried a few times over the course of a few days and wasn't super in to it.  Fail.

I got my bike tuned up and started to ride it more consistently.  I have not given up.  I went to Decathlon last week to buy a basket for my bike.  I also bought Liam a bike.  Yes, my brain said this could very well be a waste of money but at the same time, my gut was telling me that if it's his own bike and not his brother's maybe we can make this work.  I got the bike home and went to put on the training wheels that I had put on Aidan's bike.  Fail again.  Training wheels don't fit.  Back to Decathlon because I can't give him a bike that he can't ride.  Buy training wheels that DO fit.  Come back home and install said wheels less than 20 mins before I have to pick them up at the bus stop.

We got home and he was eh about the bike.  Not super excited but not ignoring it either.  It took some convincing for him to try it.  He liked the light.  He liked that it had a bell.  Ok, he loved that it had a bell.  And it had pedals that could move backwards as the brakes were only on the handlebars.  So no more getting stuck.  He rode it for about 5 minutes and then called it a day.

Every day since then I've asked him if he wants to ride it.  And he says, "not today but maybe tomorrow".  And I started to think, what a waste of money this was.  What was I thinking?  He made it clear to me he didn't want it and I pushed too hard and now I wasted money on a bike that he won't use.

But no, that's not how it worked.  Persistence can pay off.  Yesterday the four of us were doing various sport activities out in the square near our apartment.  I convinced Liam we should bring his bike to show Josh since he hadn't seen him ride it yet.  At first he was slow on it.  And he couldn't figure out the steering.  But then suddenly, suddenly it clicked and he got it.  He wasn't anywhere near as coordinated as Aidan was when he first started to ride, but he was getting it.  He was pedaling and he was steering.  He was going slow as a snail but he was going.  And he was smiling and happy about it.

I asked him if he wanted me to get my bike so we could go on a bike ride together.  He said yes.  So we slowly made our way thru the streets of Gracia on our bikes.  He kept wanting to go downhill which put the fear of god in me for fear that he wouldn't remember how to use the brake before a street intersection, but he got it.  I tried to remind him what goes down must go back up.  But he didn't seem to care.  He didn't care because I pushed him all the way back up while also pushing my bike.  But it's ok, he had fun and he loved riding.  I told him how proud I was of him and that sometimes we really need to give things more than one chance because we may really end up loving it.  So I guess you really can teach a city kid new tricks - it just takes a little patience and persistance.

Liam just getting started (yes I know, no helmet at that time but literally 30 seconds before he was moving the bike by using his feet on the ground) and Liam on the go!!!


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