‘No Train­ing Wheels!’

The Signal - - COMMUNITY - By Pat Coskran Santa Clarita Con­trib­u­tor

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.”

Photo cour­tesy of Pat Coskran

Sean is still rid­ing years later.

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