I wheeled the orange bike onto the driveway after J had finished taking off the training wheels. I positioned it and turned to Benjamin. “OK,” I said, and his leg flew over the bike. His butt was on the seat before I had a chance to stop him. “No, wait. First, you need to hold the bike.” He climbed off, and then I told him the same thing he heard me repeat to Zachary for more than six weeks last summer: “Two hands on the handlebars, leg over, look where you want to be.”
Two hands on the handlebars. I backed away. Leg over. Child on pavement, wrapped up in bike.
“Remember to look where you want to be.”
“Oh, right. I forgot.”
Two hands on the handlebars, leg over, looking where he wants to be, child on pavement, but this time three feet away from where he started. “Good. Now make sure you start pedaling as soon as you get your foot on the pedal.”
“I forgot to look where I wanted to be. But I remembered two,” he told me, as I repositioned the pedal for him.
And again. Each fall, springing right back up. Not yelling at me or saying it’s impossible or screaming that he’ll never ride his bike again.
Two hands on the handlebars, leg over, looking where he wants to be, pedaling down the driveway. All the way to the end. “That was awesome. Next time, when you get to the road, turn and keep biking.” Next time he crashed immediately, as well as the time after. Break for a Band Aid on his ankle.
Back on the bike. “Don’t forget to pedal once you’re looking where you want to be.”
“Shut up! You’re an idiot.”
“Benjamin, don’t talk to me like that.”
“Leave me alone.” He set his face in a scowl to try to hide his frustration and humiliation that he hadn’t already conquered the bike. If only he knew how lousy his poker face is.
Two hands on the handlebars, leg over, looking where he wants to be, waiting for the damned student driver idling in front of our house. “Excuse me, but could you guys please move on? He’s trying to learn to ride his bike.” I left off, which I’d rather not have him do next to you learning to operate a vehicle, but it was implied. We stood and waited while she figured out how to put the car into drive.
Now, two hands on the handlebars, leg over, looking where he wants to be, and pedaling down the driveway and out into the street, where he turned his bike around, pedaled back, and promptly collapsed in the driveway. “That was AMAZING! You know how to ride your bike!”
If it’s OK with everyone, we’ll leave off the last three minutes, when he crashed again and made gun fingers at me, thus ending our biking lesson. We’ll instead focus, as we’ve done for the last two days, on the fact that he’s learned how to ride his bike. It took Zachary two fucking years to learn to ride his bike after the training wheels came off, complete with dramatic declarations of doom, so I was prepared for a great deal of sturm und drang, yet Benjamin figured it out before his father put away the wrench.
Let’s forget the gun fingers and call this one a win.