My son is the more cautious of my twins at attempting new things. As little children he didn’t like the water or swimming pools while his sister loved the water and would have been a mermaid if that could have worked out. He did like being in charge of water with the hose for the baby pool and then if you turned the hose on him he ran and squealed. It took years for him to get where he would sit on the step of a pool and then scoot down another one. He wasn’t too sure about being in the water with his dad or I holding him either. But he is a kid, a person that I learned early on would know his own mind and really not be given to peer pressure to change. Admirable as an adult and a teenager for that matter but in trying to get swimming lessons in, for water safety alone, it was frustrating.
Similar experience with learning to ride a bicycle. My daughter was ready to jump on something and GO! So when it came to learning to ride, about the age of 5 or so she was game. Garrett was hesitant. Kate after several tries in a park, not even on concrete sidewalk to start out, got it going. Did she eventually fall as we all do, on a sidewalk or asphalt? yes, but she cried, did Bactine and got back on it. Garrett had several attempts and one last fall and that was it for him and the bike. Done trying by the age of 6.
As the kids got older and we live in an older university neighborhood with parks and trees, ice cream shop, their elementary school six blocks away and their middle school one block away, many school friends, it stood to reason that bike riding would be great. They could get around. Lots of bike riding by kids and families. Still my son was having none of this.
One day we ended up with a three wheel bike he had in a storeroom and brought it home. You have seen this bike, older ladies and people with balance issues ride these bikes. It has a basket between the rear wheels. For lack of a better description I call it a granny bike for in fact my mother has one. Garrett was all about it. Now bless his heart, my son is not a small person. Heading into 8th grade TOMORROW as I write this, he is 6’2 and 1/2″ and has been over 90% or higher on height since kindergarten. So here is this older-than-he-looks child on the three wheel bike. (We eventually took it to my mother who then used it and it fell apart and got another one, the one she has now.) He was not nearly as concerned about appearances as I was, but not just that but he couldn’t get anywhere very fast either. As a family we like riding over to the ice cream shop in the summer but before the 3 wheeler and after it was gone this was impossible and even with it we were there and eating ice cream and on the way home before he got even close. There were several times we tried to get him to try a standard bicycle but nothing doing. We even left him at home because we wouldn’t drive to get it, thinking he would be sorry he missed out. He was but wasn’t budging on learning. that falling off injury of old was not letting him go.
As a parent I really wanted him to learn for multiple reasons, transportation, thinking college campus too, neighborhood, going to the tennis courts with his sister, exercise and really it was just getting exasperating that at 12 he didn’t know how to ride a bike. Just not getting it and no amount of cajoling was going to do it. I didn’t realize my motivational speeches and pleading and shaming were the wrong tactic. It was going to take a gun.
At my parents house in Burnet County, the kids ride bikes, Garrett on the granny bike of course and the other grandkids on assorted others. My parents also have over the years allowed BB guns and pop guns at their house. targets set up in the back. My dad and brothers hunt on occasion and we grew up with guns. I am not keen on having them and didn’t buy my kids toy ones as children. I knew that my son on his own would fashion a sock or stick or something into a gun because well, they just often do. However I didn’t buy toy ones even though we had them growing up because guns are NOT toys and we were taught this very seriously. There is a muddy pond area by their home that the kids walk or ride down too and shoot at cans and frogs with the BB guns.
One day last summer when the twins were 12 they were at my parents for one of their week long visits and I was coming in that weekend to pick them up. When I got in, my daughter piped up immediately and told me that she taught Garrett to ride a bike. Well this was big news as one can imagine after years of trying to get him to even TRY to learn how after the bike incident of 2001. I asked her ” How did you do it Kate? how did you get Garrett to try again after all this time?” She looked at me calmly and said “He wanted the BB gun, I had it and told him I wouldn’t give it to him unless he got on the bike and rode it. So he did”. We just were all dumbstruck. Apparently the want of a BB gun overcomes falling off a bike that held him back for years. He got on, was a bit wobbly but got it going and so she gave him the gun. She did give him some instruction prior to getting on but he did and he is riding to this day. And I am much relieved that he is no longer trying to ride a 3 wheel bike with knees up to his head. And now they are off in the ‘Hood, riding to tennis, the ice cream shop, the coffee shop etc in our little neighborhood world.
True story, my son got on a bike and rode successfully because my daughter wouldn’t give him a BB gun until he did. I really hope I don’t have to use a gun as a carrot for future attempts of basic childhood experiences. That is just sad but really funny.