This photograph describes my daughter in a way that words cannot.

This is The Essence of Ali.

There’s a certain gene of cautiousness that runs deep in Chris and his family, and Ali got every last drop of it. Origami would be a risk in her book, what with the potential for paper cuts and all.

A thrilling activity in her mind is lining up, in rainbow order, all of the contents of a board game…


And the most adventurous of outing would be aiding in the building of a giant Lego Buzz Lightyear.

Anything more risky than that – well, that would be just downright foolhardy, wouldn’t it?

…which might explain the gap in our parental training called…bike riding.

We bought her a bike for her birthday in January, and have let her ride it around the house, but never got around to taking her and her bike…um, outside.

Granted, we had other things going on around then, like, say, a brand new baby, but still – there is no excuse for not giving your child the chance to ride her bike.

Not that she asked to do such a thing. I mean, hello?!?! RISKS?!?! No thank you.

Finally, we realized that we would be sealing our fate is the world’s worst parents if we allowed her to make it to her next birthday without ever taking her bike out of doors.

Since we live in a mountainous neighborhood, we packed up her bike and took her to the local destination of bike-riding families, a flat-surfaced Church parking lot.

We saddled her up, applied her helmet, and started helping her learn the laborious process of pedaling.

We felt the heat of the other parent’s judging eyes…shouldn’t that kid already know how to ride a bike?

Why yes, yes she should.

Our guilt was only grinded into our open, bleeding wounds when a two year old zipped by us, speeding around the parking lot and careening around corners with ease and precision – and with no training wheels.

Yes, yes. We are the monkey brains of food, the bottom feeders of the ocean, the catheter commercials of television, the spam of the internet.

We are scum.

Ali, however, didn’t notice our obvious lateness in training.

She also didn’t notice the uber-advanced two year old.

She was actually busy – and quite intent on – learning how to ride a bike.

Wait a minute… you’re actually willing to do this?? And enjoying it??

You do realize there are risks involved, right?

But she was determined. The coordination of pedaling took some work, and the steering WHILE coordinatingly pedaling took even longer. There were many off-road journeys involved, but luckily, her trusty trainer helped her avoid disaster.


…and her number one fan cheered her on, all while dodging the nearly certain disaster of being run over by flimsy training wheels.

After about an hour, she had the hang of it, was starting to go faster and faster and faster, and was quite proud of her new daredevil hobby.

We were feeling a little less shamed by the “normal” parents in the parking lot, and were about to call it a night and ride home on a cloud of victory…

…which is right when she chose to crash.

And crash she did. The bike landed on her knee and thigh, and all of her cautious-I-knew-better-than-to-try-this attitude exploded out of every pore as she panicked and forever labeled her bike an Item of Certain Death.

Chris told her the most important rule of bike-riding: you have to get back on after you crash.

She looked at him, tears still streaming, as if he had just told her to jump off the roof. Or make origami.

I took her aside and we took a break, doing something a bit more along her lines of acceptable risk: we made fairies out of fern leaves.

Finally, the screaming, snuffling, and whimpering subsided, and somehow, miraculously, I convinced her to climb aboard and finish her ride.

She pedaled slower and more gingerly than I knew was possible, but she made it to the car… with only a slight hatred resentment towards us for making her finish.

She may finally know how to ride a bike, but on the inside, with each cautious push of the foot, she’s really still doing this:


25 thoughts on “It’s Like Riding a Bike…

  1. LOVE the pictures! I can relate to the anxiety driven child- our firstborn is also that way- and its a boy. Yeah, that doesn’t always go over so well. Fear not, hockey and football are now acceptable. Large crowds for fear of trampeling or stampeding or snatching and roller coasters(recently discovered) are things he wishes to never be a part of. Too many things can go wrong after all. He’s 10 and doesn’t seem to be letting go of those hangups… good luck!

  2. Good for her for facing her fears! I have a risk-averter and a risk-taker and it is hard to find a good balance with both of them. :) I love the picture of her in the go cart. Classic!

    1. I bet that is a delicate balance. Amusement parks or a nice quiet picnic at the park? That will be your question for the rest of their childhood.

  3. I remember my first ride on a bike… and so does my knee b/c I have a huge scar from where I fell! :) I think she is the perfect age to learn. Great photos as usual!

    1. I have a scar on my face from a later bike ride – one I remember very well. Although I’m not so much anymore, I guess as a kid I was pretty risk-averse too. My Mom forced me to ride my bike down our huge hill — “It’s so much fun!!” – of course I crashed catastrophically and got a rock lodged in my face. I showed her. Poor Mom – she still suffers from Mommy guilt over that one. And me repeatedly bringing it up on my blog probably doesn’t help. ;)

    1. It was actually quite the calm, slow go-kart ride, as you can tell by Chris’ casual stance. Which made her reaction all the more priceless to me.

    1. You can’t be a bike rider without being okay to fall every now and then – it’s just gonna happen. I’m glad she got back on, too – and surprisingly enough, she really wants to go again!

  4. I was like Ali (and still very cautious about some things) when I first learned how to ride my bike….in fact, I think I was around 6 0r 7 when I finally took off the training wheels. My only motivation was my bro and I wanted a new bike. =0

  5. Great! Now I have guilt! My oldest is turning 4 next month and we haven’t even bought him a bike much less taught him to ride one!

  6. Oh, I can SO relate to this! We got River a bike for his 5th birthday in April and although he rides it, he is EXTREMELY cautious. For instance, he always tests his helmet and will quickly hop off and tell me it needs adjusting if he thinks it’s too loose. And I’m skeptical that we will ever get the training wheels off. Like Ali, he gets this sense of caution from his daddy’s family and it’s been hard on me because I come from a family of daredevils (not that I would ever want him to be like my motorcycle-riding, throw-caution-to-the-wind brother, mind you.) At a summer festival a few weeks ago I scaled a climbing wall (in full harness of course), but even with my gentle prodding, River wouldn’t climb up more than 18 inches. Then, yesterday, he shocked me by JUMPING OFF THE DIVING BOARD into a big pool without a life jacket and swimming to the side. And he actually wanted to do it. I didn’t have to beg or bribe at all. So I think he’s getting better. Now if I could just get him to climb as well as his 2-y-o sister….

  7. If it makes you feel any better, E has never been on a bike. He can pedal a trike and a big wheel with the best of them, but C doesn’t like riding his bike, so it’s never become a “thing” for our boys. Does that mean we’re bottom feeders? Great. Snaps to Ali for getting back on!! I know that her soul was screaming and cringing, but she did it!!

    1. So every family doesn’t have to be a biking family? That does make me feel better. Except that Chris and I love to ride bikes, and want them to ride with us one day. Oh, darn.

  8. That photo is priceless. You are going to have a tough time picking pictures when she gets married :) So much choice!!!

    Elizabeth is pretty risk averse too. Good for you for coaxing her into finishing, and good for her for doing it!

  9. Love the picture of Ali & Chris in the go cart! Don’t feel bad about not teaching her to ride a bike yet, we still haven’t taught Luke.
    Maybe Noah will be the bike dare devil :)

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