Thursday, August 13, 2015

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like

Getting Josie to suck it up and learn how to ride a bike has been something of a challenge, to put it diplomatically.  Because she is turning into a feisty little thing with a bit of a hair-trigger temper, to say the least.

After our Outer Banks trip a couple of weeks ago, we drove with my parents up to their house in Virginia, stayed there for two nights, and then flew home from DC.  We got some extra time with Mimi and Papa, and the travel is so much easier.  There used to be a direct flight from Denver to Norfolk, Virginia, but there isn't anymore, so getting between those two cities now is a major pain in the ass.

Anyway, we were in my dad's car on the way back.  His car has a back seat entertainment system, so we could pop in a DVD for the kids during the 5 hour drive home.  The kids were very excited about this.

The problem was, my dad had never used the system, so it took a little while for us to figure out all the various intricacies of it.

Which pissed Josie off to no end.

Before we had even left the driveway of the beach house, she was sitting in the back seat while I was trying to figure out how to get everything to work.  I figured it out eventually, but it took some time to go through the car's manual and try out different buttons.  And even though we hadn't even left yet and I was obviously making every effort to make it work for her, she still lost her mind when the system didn't work IMMEDIATELYTHISINSTANTNOW!

She could see the picture on the DVD screen, but it wasn't playing the movie.

"MAMA!! It's not working.  It's not WORKING!"  She was yelling and banging her headphones and generally acting like a crazy person.

"Good lord, Josie, you need to calm yourself down this minute!  I'm trying to get it to work.  Just give me a chance!"

We finally realized that in order for the movie to play, the car had to be on (the system wouldn't just draw on the car's battery power).  So that was one question answered.

Then we had to figure out how to get the sound to play on the headphones.  I found the right jacks to plug the headphones into.  Then after some trial and error, I figured out how to change the "source" for the sound, and found the sound for the movie.

But I committed the unforgivable crime of taking about 4 minutes to get everything worked out.


"Jesus Christ!" I thought to myself.  "What a little lunatic."

Out loud, I said, "Josephine!  You need to stop yelling and carrying on like that right now.  This is ridiculous.  I am figuring out how to get it to work and I will get it to work, but you need to stop acting like a little brat!  Enough!"

"Boy," said my mother. "She's really something, isn't she?"


So anyway, back to the bike riding.

When Josie turned 2, we got her a little balance bike.  The idea behind the balance bike is that you learn to balance on the bike while having the safety and comfort of being able to use your feet to stop, and then you'll easily be able to move on to a bike with pedals because you've already figured out the mechanics of balancing and turning.

Not so much with Josephine.

Because while she undoubtedly mastered the art of getting around on the balance bike and was zipping around as fast as you please, when she got a big-girl bike last spring she wanted nothing to do with it unless we left the training wheels on.

"But you don't need the training wheels, honey!  You know how to balance on the bike.  All you need to do is pedal!"

But she refused to pedal without the training wheels.

So we spent the ensuing year and a half trying to ride without training wheels and sometimes having the confidence to do it and then getting excited about it but then losing confidence and getting pissed off and knocking the bike over and kicking it or just refusing to go near it altogether.

Then, for whatever reason, last week she decided she wanted to try again.  So we pumped up the tires and put on her helmet and went outside.

It did not go well.

I would hold on to the seat of the bike while she got in it and would push her along trying to get her to pedal on her own.  She would pedal about three revolutions and then stop, which of course caused the bike to stop and fall over.

"Honey, the only way the bike is going to stay up is if you pedal.  You have to pedal and keep pedaling so that the bike will move forward.  If it's not moving, it'll fall over."

"I know!"


"OK, let's try again."

She would pedal but wouldn't steer, so the bike would be heading into a wall or a rock, which would cause her to freak out and stop.

"Why did you stop?

"That rock was in my way!!" she yelled.

"You have handlebars to steer the bike.  Steer away from the rock."


She kept getting more and more frustrated.  She would yell at me if I held on to the bike to get her started.  "YOU'RE MESSING ME UP! STOP TOUCHING ME! YOU'RE PUSHING ME TOO FAST!"


"Ok, let's try again.  I'm not trying to mess you up, honey, I'm just trying to help you start pedaling."


At this point, she's standing in the middle of the sidewalk having a full-on meltdown, crying and screaming.  I was taking deep breaths.

"Josie, I think we're done for the day.  You're too upset and you can't ride a bike if you're angry and crying, so let's go home."


"Honey, we're going home.  You're done."

I picked up the bike and started walking home.  She walked with me, despondent.

"I'm stupid. I want to be like Zeke. Why can't I be Zeke? Zeke knows how to ride. I ride like a baby and everybody thinks I'm stupid," she wailed.

We went inside and I sat her on my lap and held her while she cried.

"Sweetheart, you're not stupid.  Nobody thinks you're stupid.  Zeke can ride really well because he's been doing it for two years and he's had a lot of practice, but when he was your age he fell over all the time.  It took a lot of practice for him to be able to ride like he does."

"I ride like a baby.  I can't do anything," she sobbed.

"No, you don't.  You ride like someone who is just learning and who needs to practice a little bit.  All you need to do is practice and you'll figure it out, I promise.  I'll help you.  You're going to figure it out and you'll do great."

Needless to say, in the days after that I didn't bring up the subject of the bike again.

Then three days ago, she announced that she wanted to ride her bike.  I steeled myself for another fight, but took her out to practice going around the block.

But she figured it out.  I would hold the seat, she would start pedaling, I would give her a little shove to give the bike some momentum, and off she went.  She was wobbly and insisted on stopping every 10 feet ("Mama, I really love you, so I don't want to leave you behind to make you walk by yourself"), but she did it and was so, so excited with herself.  She and Zeke and I went all the way down to their school about a half mile away, and she rode to the school (mostly, occasionally we would walk and push the bike) and rode around the playground and rode home.

"Josie, I'm so proud of you.  You're doing so great!"

"I know! Boy, I sure was complaining a lot the other day! But now I'm not crying and I'm practicing and I can ride really well now!"

The next day was even better, and last night was better still.  She is now able to start on her own without me holding the bike at all, she can do tighter turns, and she can ride and ride and ride without stopping.

Last night we were outside as she and Zeke tooled around the neighborhood on their bikes, with me following on foot.  But just as we were heading home, she looked behind her to see Zeke and lost her balance.  The bike wobbled widely and she fell, landing hard with the handlebars under her ribs.

I sprinted over to her and picked her up.  She was crying and very startled, but not injured except for a little nick on one of her fingers and a mark on her rib where the handlebar hit her. I felt her ribs for breaks and she was able to take deep breaths without pain, so I figured she would be OK.  We went home to get a band-aid and rest.

We were sitting on the couch at home, putting a band-aid on her finger, when there was a knock on the door.  It was our friends from around the corner, inviting us to join them in walking up to the ice cream store.

"Hey, Josie," I called, "I know what will make you feel better.  How about some ice cream?"


"Ok, we're going to walk over there.  It'll be fun.  Ice cream makes everything better."

She hesitated for a minute.


"Yes, sweetie?

"Can I ride my bike?"

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