Have you ever taught a child to ride a bike? It’s one of my least favorite things to teach as a parent, but I think it parallels some great life lessons. You need to learn to pedal while balancing the bike and keeping it steady. You have to look where you’re going, and if you stop pedaling, you better put your feet down or you’re going to fall over! If you want to get anywhere, you have to keep pedaling. Unless of course you are going downhill, then you can coast… but go downhill forever and you will end up in the lake or a valley or something… there’s no way it can be downhill forever. You are going to have to ride uphill eventually.
I love to ride bikes, but I hate to see my little ones wreck, so much so that I tend to hang back when the family goes for a ride. It literally makes my knees weak to see my kids wreck on their bikes. My older kids find this hard to believe because my outward reaction is very matter of fact. “Get up, you’re fine. Dust it off, you’re fine. Get your bike up, straighten out and jump back on.” I say all of this before they can even whimper in pain. They probably hated it when they were little, and I’m sure they roll their eyes as they hear me saying it to our youngest who’s just learning to navigate her bike.
I wonder what kind of “wreck responder” you are?
I saw two other kids, besides my youngest, wreck their bikes this week! One wreck seemed like the kid should for sure be hurt, but before I could even get out of my chair to check on him, he was back on his bike and riding again. Another boy looked like his wreck was no big deal but his reaction was completely different. He stayed on the ground wailing, he never even stood up, and his cries got louder the closer his mom got to the scene. Once she checked him over, he stood up and walked home while she pushed his bike! Then you have Carson, my youngest. She hit some loose gravel, lost control and hit the ground pretty hard. She caught her fall with her hands and her legs got caught in the bike. She got some decent scrapes on her hands and knees, but from her response you would have thought she needed an ambulance. I went into my firm but sing-songy mantra, “Get up, you’re fine, you are fine. Dust off your hands, get your bike back up and jump back on.” She always looks a little stunned when I say this. I know she wants me to be more concerned, but I also know she is just fine. As soon as we got home, I put a bandaid on her scrapes, and she was all better. I want her to know that she can handle a little temporary pain. She can push through, get back up and take care of getting her bike back home.
I have to give a big shout out to the momma of the first boy. He didn’t miss a beat, and if he was hurt, he knew lying in the street wasn’t the place to fall apart. I have no idea…he might have fallen apart when he got home and was able to let his emotions go, but in the moment, he took care of business! The second little boy, I hope this is just a now mentality and this isn’t how his momma responds to everything. But let’s be honest, we all know the mommas that are rescuing their babes. If you ever see me carrying a bike down the road for one of my kiddos, things have gone terribly wrong and you might want to pray. Either that child is terribly hurt or they are going to be! (Not physically, but I promise their ear will want to cut itself off to escape the lecture it’s about to receive!)
We could all argue the pros and cons of all three approaches but for simplicity’s sake and because we don’t know the real circumstances behind either of the other two boys, we’ll just judge my approach. Does it seem too harsh to you? I believe it’s balanced. I want to think if she was really hurt she knows she can express her emotions, but I also want to teach her to push through hard things. In life, we are all going to get bumped and bruised, we are going to take a few skinned knees and maybe even a black eye. It’s how we handle it that will determine the outcome. You can’t always go crying to mom and wanting her to fix everything! If we want our kids to have a sense of security and trust their instincts to handle tough situations, we have to give them the space to learn to take care of themselves. Our kids are going to face hardships, it’s just part of life. Teach them to assess the situation, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, get their “bike” straightened and get going again. Lying in the street crying never helped anyone… and you might get run over, so there’s that!
I’d be lying if I said “no judgement here” if you are the momma picking up your child’s bike. I don’t know the circumstances but I do find myself shaking my head. I trust people are doing the best they can. But, I wonder, how is this little one going to grow up and be independent? Maybe that’s not everyone’s goal? I imagine this could sound harsh to a reader, especially if you don’t know me. Here’s the deal: I love my children, but I don’t want them to be children forever. I want to raise independent, well rounded, productive human beings. I am all for being a safe place for my kiddos, but I never want to be the one that “fixes” everything for them. We all know adults who can’t handle life because they had someone going before them clearing the way.
What started as a life lesson around riding a bike got a little edgy. Here’s the deal mommas: I do trust you are doing your best, but if you find yourself always “fixing” everything for your kids, I’m going to encourage you to re-evaluate. Take a minute to think of your long-term goal and then decide if you are working for or against yourself in accomplishing it? If it’s your goal to raise productive members of society that know how to take care of themselves, start looking for ways to help them be exactly that. Sometimes that means not making their life perfect for them. Allow them to fall, allow them to pick themselves back up. Be there when they really need you, but also give them space to experience a little pain and see that they can survive it.
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