I was so excited! On September 9, 2006, I went birthday shopping for Snapper's 4th birthday. I shelled over my budgeted cash and came home with a shiny new bicycle for my daughter. It had every snazzy bike feature a girl could possibly want. Glittery purple and blue paint, flower decals, comfy blue grips on the handles, a cushy seat, and a sturdy set of training wheels. I hung the cute pink helmet from the handlebars, tied a giant pink bow on the seat, and stowed the bike in a dark corner of the garage.
On the evening of her birthday, I prepared a scavenger hunt for Snapper. The clues took her all over the house, and ended in the garage where her excitement was everything I had anticipated! She jumped up and down, screamed, laughed, and provided me with great camera food at the sight of the beautiful bike. We strapped on the helmet, wheeled the bike down to the level end of our cul-de-sac, and put Whitney on it. As she pushed forward on the pedals, the excitement on her face was replaced by a stricken look of pure terror. I grabbed the back of the bike and showed her how to use the brakes. That was of no comfort to Snapper. As the bike started rolling again, she dropeed her feet from the pedals, let go of the handlebars, leaned over as far as she could, and grabbed the front wheel to stop the bike. Remember, I've said several times in the past that Snapper has more than her share of book smarts, but she's sorely lacking in the street smarts department!
Snapper climbed off that bike in a torrent of screams and tears (oh, the drama!), and refused to get back on again. She flung off the helmet, and took off running for home. It has been just over two years since that incident. I can count on one hand the times she has been willing to get on that bike. Each of those times has ended in a similar fashion. Not even the level church parking lot has helped. And then last night when Matt got home, he decided we would go for a walk. He sent me to the garage to get out Snapper's bike and helmet. He put Pepper in the wagon. When we congregated on the front porch, Matt announced that six years old is old enough to get over being afraid of a bike. I rolled the bike down the driveway, strapped knee pads and helmet on Snapper, and insisted she get on the bike.
I fought frustration, and Matt masked amusement as I pushed Snapper up the street on her bike. Every two seconds it was, "Mommy, you're going too fast!" or, "Mommy, that's way too fast!" or, "Mommy I want to stop now!". But I marched onward until we reached the sidewalk on the next street. Then I let go. With whines and wobbles, Snapper pedaled herself forward. Every 5 feet or so she jammed on the brakes, stopping the bike. We continued like that for half a block...crawl forward, stop, crawl forward, stop. Our tortoise could have beat Whitney in a race! Let me remind you that this bike has a sturdy set of training wheels. Finally, I'd had enough. I Snapper that she could stop pedaling, but she was not allowed to stop moving anymore. The pavement was perfectly level, so there was no chance of the bike even moving unless she was pedaling. It took a few blocks, but she finally got going at about the same pace Matt and I were walking. Then we headed homeward.
Our cul-de-sac presented the big test for Snapper. It is a fairly steep downhill slope, and we wouldn't let her get off the bike. Instead, I walked right beside her and coached her on gently tightening the brakes to slow herself down without actually stopping. Slowly, slowly she made her way down the hill. I laughed to myself at the mix of panic, determination, and concentration on her little face.
At the bottom of the street, she made her way around and headed back up the hill. And would you believe it, she actually started pedaling faster to gain momentum for the climb! The capstone of success for Snapper was Matt's insistence that she ride by herself down our very steep driveway. She fussed, but she did it.
And then oh, the joy of conquering a fear! Snapper was so excited that she had ridden her bike! She's asking to go out again today! How thankful I am that we are past this battle, and that she has finally learned to enjoy riding the bike. Of course, now it's too small for her. Can you guess what will be waiting in the garage on Christmas morning? You've got it! A new bike...without training wheels!