I have been teaching my son to ride a bike for the last eight months or so. All of the mechanics of riding a bike that come to me as second nature have been things that he had to learn, and it has been a painstaking process. But helping my son learn to ride his bike has reminded me of some important life lessons.
New experiences require more effort, but they reap more rewards.
Leon received his first big boy bicycle from his aunt last Christmas. He was super excited when he opened it, and he could barely wait to get it outside to take it for a spin. However, after one or two attempts to move forward on it down the driveway, he became frustrated and quickly lost interest. Even with the training wheels, the new bicycle proved a much larger challenge than his tricycle that he had gotten used to. The frame was heavier and took more effort to move; the wheels didn’t turn as easily; the pedals were harder to reach and maneuver. It took a lot of effort, and initially, the payoff of riding his exciting new “big boy” bike was not worth the increased energy it required.
Little by little, he became better and better. He spent longer trying and practicing each time. We measured progress by inches, then feet, then yards. He huffed and he puffed and he spluttered, and yes, sometimes he even cried. But I’ll never forget the moment, after pedaling for several minutes without pausing, he looked up at me and said, “this is fun!” In that moment he wasn’t thinking about all the struggles; he was relishing in the reward.
Sometimes life requires some adjustments
One of the hardest parts of riding a bike is getting started. Optimal alignment of the pedals makes pushing off much easier from rest; conversely, poor pedal alignment can make pushing off nearly impossible. If both pedals are parallel to the ground, it is nearly impossible to get the leverage needed to move forward.
Initially, when Leon would find his bike pedals in this position, he would sit and push on them for a bit – a few seconds at most – before he would call out to me for help.
At first I would give him a little push forward, which would move his pedals into the right position, and he would be on his way. After a while, I grew tired of pushing him, and frankly, he grew tired of having to wait for me. Each time he struggled longer and longer before he called for help. Finally, one day he had pushed at the pedals to no avail for over a minute, and in frustration he jumped off his bike. I thought he was going to quit or whine. But to my surprise, he bent over and maneuvered the pedals into the optimal position. He jumped back on his bike, pushed off, and rode down the street.
My son taught me something with that simple action. Sometimes simply stepping back, evaluating, and adjusting accordingly is all that is needed to transform a hopeless situation into an overwhelming success.
The journey is more important than the destination
The last time that Leon and I rode, he exuded the confidence of one much older and more experienced than his four years. “Come on, Momma!” he yelled over his shoulder as he pedaled down the driveway and into the street. We rode side by side for several yards. He matched my pace easily, and my heart swelled as I watched Leon wave to people in our neighborhood as we passed by them. I was so proud of how far he had come, as a bike rider, as a person.
We rode around our neighborhood, making loops and backtracking, for well over half an hour. We had no plan, no agenda, no intentions beyond enjoying the ride.
It was refreshing to not feel the need to do anything or to be anywhere or to accomplish something particular. I know that sometimes in my life I have been guilty of missing the journey because I was so focused on the destination.
Riding with that little boy, just for the sake of enjoyment, reminded me that sometimes the journey really is the most important thing.