‘No Training Wheels!’
I swing my mud encrusted mountain bike into the bed of my truck with a thud. I look at the worn, dusty tires and scratched paint and remember some of my solitary adventures.
My work gear is stacked against the wall of my garage, making room for my planned weekend excursion. Yellow plastic cases of liquid chlorine, a telescopic pole with attached brush, a deep skimmer net and a coiled, blue vacuum hose take my mind to pools I’ll face next week. Hope it isn’t windy.
Now it’s time to load Sean’s bike. The shiny red, unblemished paint and gleaming chrome spokes remind me that he’s never ridden it. I double check the training wheels for secure mounting, silently praying that this might be the time he’s willing to try. I should be excited about this outing with my son, but I’m not.
“Come on, Sean. Let’s go.” I shout impatiently down the hallway leading to his closed bedroom door. I try to end my sentence with a cheery note, hoping for a good response. Nothing.
So far, all of my efforts to teach Sean how to ride a bike have ended with him refusing, and me disappointed. He’s ten years old and I feel he should be riding by now. I dream about us exploring the trails of Santa Clarita, adventuring together—father and son—but to date my dreams remain just that.
“We’ll stop for ice cream after,” I add to sweeten the deal.
“Ice cream!” His voice booms, as his door slams open. He emerges wrestling with his tee shirt, searching for the arm hole. He finally gets in on, but inside out. I quickly slip it off and get it re-installed correctly, ignoring his grumbling.
We arrive at Meadows Park where this scenario has played out unsuccessfully so many times before. The quotation, “Hope springs eternal” keeps replaying in my head like a mantra. I pull his bike out of the back of the truck, and balance it on the training wheels. One last jiggle and it looks ready to go.
“No training wheels,” Sean’s voice is clear as a bell behind me. I turn to see a determined look on his face and he repeats, “No training wheels.” He points toward the attachment on his bike, as if to make sure I understand his demand.
“But you haven’t ridden with…” I start into my speech, but he cuts me off and repeats a third time, “No training wheels”. His expression seems to be evolving from determined to angry, so I set logic aside for now.
I grab the adjustable wrench from the tool box behind my seat. I’m trying to hide my annoyance, as I set about removing the training wheels. My grip slips and my knuckles bang against the threaded bolt.
“Damn it!” I exclaim, reflexively putting my knuckles into my mouth.
“Watch your language, Dad!” Sean relishes these opportunities to correct me. This isn’t helping me stay composed. I give my knuckles a last suck and pull them out.
“Okay, let’s get on with this.” I say, picking up my wrench from the asphalt and focusing on his training wheels.
“There you go. They’re off. Now what?” I say, putting down the kick stand, and balancing his bike upright. I turn away from Sean and his bike without waiting for his response. Muttering to myself, I throw his training wheels into the back of the truck and return the wrench to the toolbox.
I turn back hoping that we can get through whatever happens next without a tantrum—his or mine. He’s gone and so is his bike! I frantically scan the park looking for him. There he is, riding his bike across the basketball court. I watch as he rides, perfectly balanced, rolling from the concrete court and onto the grass of the park. He handles the bike with the confidence of someone who’s ridden before. But yet, he never has. He must have gained all of the information he needed by observing and studying others riding bicycles. Then, when he was ready, off he went.
“Hey Dad. Look at me,” Sean shouts, as he maneuvers back in my direction.
“I see you, Son.” I yell back to him, admiring his style.
“No training wheels. I told you.” He adds, as if to make sure I noticed.
“Yep. I should have listened, huh?” I say. He pulls up and stops. “Hey. How about if I get my bike out and we ride together?” I ask.
“Not today. I’m done. Maybe next time.” He says, unbuckling his helmet.
“OK, Buddy. Nice job today.” I reply, reminding myself to be grateful for this victory. Let him take this at his own pace. But, I’m holding on to his last words, “Maybe next time.”
Sean is still riding years later.