There are some advantages to being the baby of the family.
By the time our third kid came along, we had smoothed out the rough edges in our parenting skills. We were somewhat confident in our child-rearing abilities and no longer cared about what our peers were doing. We threw out all of the parenting books after the first-born, and decided to raise all of our kids "Commando" style.
There are many little things we trained our children to do, but for us, teaching our kids to ride a bike was one of the toughest challenges.
It was waaay harder than teaching potty training, shoe tying, and long division.
This is partly because we live on wash-board gravel roads where training wheels spin out, partly because we have snow half of the year, and partly because we don't have much time to ride in the summer.
With our first kid, we were over-achievers. We took the training wheels off when he was pretty young. After countless training sessions and a few tears, he was the first of his buddies to learn how to ride a bike.
Our second kid had it rough. She was always competing with her big brother, and wanted her training wheels off A.S.A.P! We had less time on our hands for training, but thankfully she picked up the skill quickly. She had a major setback early on when she crashed and burned on a bike ride. Her whole face was covered in road-rash. Despite wearing a helmet, we made a trip to the doctor to make sure her giant goose-egg wasn't a concussion.
When our third child grew to riding age, we decided to take the
lazy laid-back approach. We had so many other priorities that we never really pushed the bike training. Our baby spent her summer on horse-back, and didn't seem to mind that she hadn't conquered bicycle riding. That was just fine with us because we came to dread the bike riding lessons.
This fall, she finally expressed interest in learning to ride, and so we had a training session up and down the gravel road.
Since she was older than the other kids, she took to it very quickly! Besides, she was sick of being left out when her brother and sister went for a ride. That was incentive enough! With just a couple of trial runs, we let her figure the whole thing out on her own.
She was all smiles and no tears when she rode alone for the first time.
"Petal, petal, petal!" were our only words of advice as she took off down the road.
Now that she's burning up the gravel with her new skills, we can't keep her off her bike seat. She's obsessed with riding!
She's still figuring out the brakes, though. She does a combination of pushing backward on the petals and dragging the heels of her boots to stop. Whenever she gets out of control, her "stabilizers" come out and kick up dust until she's at a more reasonable speed.
As you can see, her "brakes" and "stabilizers" are wearing out quickly. Ha Ha! I think it's about time for a new pair.
It's well worth it, though, to have another childhood training item crossed off the list.
I'm glad we waited until she wanted to learn, instead of pushing her to do it earlier. The whole experience went so much smoother.
I have to confess that there have been a few times that I've seen pictures of smaller children riding without training wheels on the sidewalks in the city, and I've felt a little panic-stricken, thinking that I wasn't doing my job in a timely manner, but then I remember that everyone has different training priorities.
Kids learn what they need to know for the lifestyle they're raised in.
Our baby knows her way around a horse better than some adults. All of our kids were brave enough to hold their ground while working cattle in the pens, and could differentiate between breeds of cows before preschool. They knew the difference between a heifer, cow, steer, and bull by the time they were just little tykes, and have lots of skills that city kids may never learn.
Every child is unique, and there is no "one size fits all" parenting.
I'm glad we're through with most of the tough stuff.... until the teenage years hit. I need a few years of rest before we start driving lessons. If her boots are any indication of her future driving, I'm going to get a whole lot of whip-lash, and burn through a few brake pads on the truck before the girl turns 16. I may even see my life flash before my eyes a few times.
Lord, help us all!