Learning to ride a bike is one of those childhood rites of passage that trades a full day's worth of bumps, scrapes and even a little pride for a lifetime of freedom, empowerment and big-time confidence. Girl power — and boy power — at its best!
At least that's what I thought before this past weekend, when my 7-year-old daughter mastered the bicycle sans training wheels in about 10 minutes flat.
That's right. Forget those lazy, hazy days of summer when your dad would push the back of your bicycle seat over and over and over as you wobbled your way down the neighborhood road, the front wheel making crazy swerves just before you ended up in a bush or a pile of trash. In my case, it was the 1980s and I remember it Instagram-filter style, the sun-dappled trees bowed over me as I, well, kept falling over. For hours. And hours.
My poor dad. My poor knees. (Those were the days before crazy things like helmets and padding were de rigueur.)
Well, parents, turns out there's an easier way to teach our children how to ride a bike, and not only does it take a handful of minutes, there are also only a handful of steps to the entire process.
How did I find out about this crazy magic trick? Just as most things happen today, my neighbor Googled it and then explained:
First, get your kid on a bike with a seat low enough that her feet touch the ground — not just her toes, but her whole foot.
Then, forget about the pedals for a minute.
Tell her to "scoot, scoot, scoot and glide," meaning she needs to use both of her feet to push off of the pavement and "scoot," and then let her coast — or glide.
If this isn't a testament to how humanity's evolving, I don't know what is.
Try that several times — and, yes, there will be some falls — before telling her to use the pedals mid-glide. I'm obviously not guaranteeing anything, and every child is different, but I bet you'll be amazed at the results.
The kids learn to balance as they're scooting and gliding. Gliding, though, is key. If they've ridden on a Razor or similar scooter, which my daughter has, it might come a bit easier. It doesn't take as long as you'd think before they get the hang of it and pedaling just becomes part of the process.
You're then free to pat yourself on the back, because what took our parents hours now should take you a matter of minutes.
"If this isn't a testament to how humanity's evolving, I don't know what is," my neighbor, who told me the technique, said.
Don't be surprised, though, if you feel that the shortened time is somehow bittersweet. I mean, the day I learned to ride a bike is a lasting memory for me, and those endless pushes and words of encouragement from my dad meant the world to me.
After all, while he was pushing my wobbly bike and me down the street, he was also teaching me what it was like to be independent, to persevere and to have the ability to travel to distant places on my own and sometimes at great speed.
Metaphor for life? Check. Did I rob myself of that moment? Maybe.
Or maybe I just robbed myself of the "hours and hours" part that only would have exhausted my daughter and me. After all, what we lost in hours of hair-raising practice, we gained in her huge sense of accomplishment, mastered in mere minutes.
Talk about a confidence builder!
However, if you're in need of life lessons to pass on to your children in this short 10- or 15-minute window, remember to also teach them how to use the brakes.