The frame was red. The seat was white. Streamers dangled from each side of the handlebars. I can still remember the sound of the plastic training wheels scraping along the pavement.
The driveway and street had a dusting of snow; typical of January in the Midwest. I took hold of both handles and swung my leg over the middle bar. I didn't even think about touching the pedals. Just stood there astride my very first bike with pride and anticipation coursing through my body.
My eyes lifted to find my dad's reassuring face. He was smiling down on me, but he was using his "this-is-important" voice. I did my best to listen to what he was telling me. At long last, I perched on the seat and lifted on foot to meet a the pedal. Dad steadied me and helped me gain a little momentum. I wobbled along struggling to push those pedals and move those wheels. We made our way across the cul-de-sac and halfway up the hill like this - a little girl working like the little engine that could and a gentle giant hunched over while pushing, steadying, and encouraging.
We made a wide turn back toward the house. The slight downhill slope would provide the momentum I needed, my dad would be able to let go and give me the freedom of riding all by myself. The first few second were a thrill. No pedaling was required, and I was moving fast ... faster than I really wanted to go. Panic set in. My dad yelled, "Slow down. Use the brakes." I steered my little red bike toward a neighbor's yard, and I bailed - I threw myself off that bike and landing with a soft thud on a blanket of snow and soggy grass.
What I did next surprised even me. I hopped back on that bike and started down the hill again! I was so focused on the task at hand - learning how to ride my first big girl bike - that I don't remember what my dad was doing at this point. I know he was running after me. I know he was yelling something. But I took no notice, built up too much speed again, and not knowing a better method for stopping, threw myself off that bike again ... landing in another neighbor's snow-covered yard.
My dad finally caught up with me when I ran out of hill and helped me back to the driveway. What ensued was an explanation of the brakes - something my dad had failed to teach the first time around. I was amazed that something as simple as pushing back on the pedal produced such an immediate result. Clearly a much safer and more effective method of stopping.
I tried it my way and then learned a better way. I made a mistake and gained a valuable lesson. Now as a parent, the impact of my first bike riding experience is not lost on me. I just wish I could be better about hanging back and allowing the mistakes ... for the sake of the learning that happens this way.
Here's hoping that blogging is like riding a bike ... something that you never forget how to do! After an entire month of self-imposed blog restriction, MommyBrain is back, baby!