The Hess Report

Monday, February 07, 2005

Behold - Ye Shall Ride Upon the Bicycle

As it says in the Bible, "You shall not be required to honor consistent blogging commitments that you have made if it is the Sabbath." Of course, that's Old Testament, so I don't have to follow it to the letter, but it's a good excuse not to write on Sunday.

Big things happened yesterday, mostly for Maddie. If it seems that Lucy gets short shrift in all of this, it's just because she hasn't hit the age yet where she must begin to do difficult things. Her time will come.

We had tried several times last summer to get Maddie to ride her bike without training wheels, but she wouldn't. I'm scared/I can't do it/I'll fall/tears/anguish/drama/etc. We're heading to the beach in May, and it will be great if we can bike the short distance to the ocean from our house without having to slow up for someone still on training wheels. Joy suggested that our unusually spring-like weather (50+ degrees F) would be a great help toward that goal.

Maddie told us at breakfast that she knew she would do it today. She was certain. She was trying to psyche herself up.

After church and lunch, we all went outside and the training wheels came off. I held her shoulders and walked/ran beside her. Not bad. We headed out of the cul-de-sac and down the straightaway. I held onto her the whole time, as she was winging back and forth pretty wildly. We came back to the cul-de-sac, and she wanted me to just let her go. I informed her that small consistent steps today would lead to success, whereas trying to do it all at once would lead to failure, crashes and blood. I let her try, because she insisted, and it didn't work too well. She cried, because she thought that she would be able to do it right away.

I reminded her that she would be successful if we did it gradually. Back down the road.

She's peddling, saying "I can do it. I can do it," out loud.

She was doing really well, so I let go, keeping pace with her a pretty good run.

"You're doing it," I say.

"I know I can."

"No. I'm not touching you. You're doing it right now!"

"I am!"

Crash! Into the back of a parked car. Well, that's what would happen on a crappy sit-com, or on the animated show that used to be the Simpsons, but shouldn't really be called that anymore. No, she did great after that. Wiped out into a snow-covered yard later, but she was fine.

Then, she wanted to tackle the ride to the playground, just over half a mile. One stop sign. Some traffic. After we passed the stop sign (half-way there, I only put my hand on her shoulder once), we passed several groups of kids playing. One distracted her. She panicked and turned the handlebars wildly, bringing the bike to an abrupt flopping stop and sending her flying forward. She landed on her chest and hands (thank you armor-palmed gloves!), and managed to keep her chin from digging a trough in the pavement. I was right behind and running fast. I tried to hurdle her, but the bike clipped me, and I had to sacrifice my hands to keep from pancaking her with 175 pounds of USDA Dad. For me, there was no blood involved. Apparently, years of abuse have made my hands impervious to things like pavement and stones.

Not so the skin of a seven year old girl. She had a nasty scrape running diagonally from her diaphragm up across her sternum. Little points of blood were starting to show. She cried, but immediately got back on the bike and took off again. A couple of feet later, she ditched again, and this time the end of the handlebar hit her in the neck. A shot in the throat would have been really bad, and I made sure that she hadn't had the wind knocked out of her.

"You've gone a long way," I said. "We can take a break."

"I'm going the whole way," she replied, which is what I had expected to hear.

"Do your legs still feel shaky from the wreck?" I said.


"Just take a couple of breaths and get your strength back, or you'll keep crashing the whole way."

She closed her eyes and seemed to collect herself. Then, it was back on and away, not stopping until the playground. When we got there, I rubbed some snow into my stinging palms and she rubbed some on her chest (eleven years from now she could get paid to do that on tape!) Joy and Lucy (peddling furiously on her tricycle named "Cuddles") eventually caught up with us, and we all threw snowballs and fiddled around for a bit.

Then, it was off again, moving fast, and her balancing without any help. She wasn't outrunning me, but I wouldn't have been able to keep up at that pace for more than a mile. We made it home without further incident.

Joy informed me that later, when I was running errands and practicing my second amendment rights, Maddie went back out to ride with the neighborhood orphans and was zipping around like she'd been riding for years. I remember it taking me a lot longer than a couple of passes up and down the street to get the hang of it, but it's hard to tell how long things really took back then. Saturday morning cartoons seemed to last all day. Sitting in your room for five minutes waiting for the paddling sentence from the parental judge certainly took all week. But even though it's over in an instant, the first time you realize you're riding without your Dad's hand on your shoulder stays with you for the rest of your life.

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