The first time Caroline rode her bike, she crashed, and thereafter felt as much terror about it as she did kite flying. Possibly more, because this involved her personal body. Part of the problem is that she’s just too big for conventional training wheels. Even her modest weight (I don’t think the child weighs 70 pounds) bends them up and out of shape when they’re attached to her 22” bike. (At eight, she’s skinny and tall.) Plus, a 22″ bike doesn’t balance well against those tiny training wheels. It’s too tall. They make training wheels for special needs kids, but they’re quite expensive, and the real solution is that she just has to learn how to ride the thing outright.
You can imagine how that went over.
So the bike, which was new last Christmas, has been sitting unused in our garage all year.
Then, suddenly, about a month ago, Caroline wandered into the office at some ungodly hour of the morning, while Scott and I were still trying to make the transition from “dead” to “awake” and said, “Let’s go to the park.”
“It’s too early,” we said in unison.
“Well then can I go out back and ride my bike?”
The last time Mommy and Daddy woke up that fast, vomit or urine was involved.
We took her to the park, suited her up against another crash, and started dropping her down grassy hills. Slowly, she caught on, but it seemed like the more proficient she became, the less willing she was to practice. I didn’t want to push her too hard, but I knew better than to let her give up, either. It’s an area where Scott and I struggle to achieve balance in our lives, much as she does on the bike. The kid’s got Asperger’s syndrome, and it screws mightily with her vestibular system. I don’t want to put her in a situation where I’m asking the impossible of her. But. This is a bicycle she picked out, and it’s a goal she identified. She wants this. And she can do it. It’s just hard.
So one day of every weekend for the last month has been devoted to taking Caroline out to crash her bike at the park. But by last week, she was good enough to turn loose on pavement.
“I want to stay on the grass,” she argued.
“Honey, you can’t always ride your bike on the grass. You need to take the next step. Remember when you didn’t even want to ride it on the grass?”
“Because riding your bike is freedom. It feels just like flying.”
She gave in, but I’m not sure she believed me. Let me show you.
This is Caroline.
And here’s her gear.
This is Caroline, with her gear, getting on her bike.
This is Caroline, on her bike, going down a hill.
Oh dear. This is Caroline.
This is Caroline’s thumb. Poor Caroline.
This is Caroline, on the path that has been vexing her.
Oh yes. This is Caroline.
This is the bike path on a beautiful autumn day. Can you see Caroline?