Today my two oldest sons joined a club of semi-elite children – bike riders.
It hit me the other day that the boys (ages 5 and 7) couldn’t ride bikes. After a pity party about the pace of life and the frustration of finding balance I decided this was the week. I should have prayed and asked God if this was the week, because halfway through I certainly wasn’t so sure anymore.
It took several concentrated hours on multiple nights to go from wobbly training wheel novices to the now infamous two-wheeled terrors of the neighborhood. As the learning process unfolded, I began to see the challenges they encountered and saw the reasons they were failing. So we made adjustments, trying to meet their problems with solutions so they would find success in the end.
Here’s what my boys experienced this week:
To ride a bike, you have to juggle multiple things at once – Riding a bike is no simple task. You’re in a totally unfamiliar place (I was always told to stay OUT of the street) with unfamiliar processes (steering with your hands and pedaling with your feet) and there’s someone shouting at you (er, a loving dad, I swear) who wants to fix everything you’re doing wrong.
Keep your head up – Riding a bike doesn’t work if you’re looking at the pedals or worrying about the ground underneath you. It works best when you focus on the goal and keep alert for the oncoming cars and curbs that can sometimes sneak up on you.
Sometimes to make progress you have to experience pain – After a few hours of nonstop trips to Roadrashville, I made them put on jeans. I’m sure they’ll heal up fine and some of the scars on their little legs will help them value the process. But a couple of times it hurt me just to watch them fall down.
Balance is the key – if you can just keep the bike upright, you’ve got a real shot at making it to your goal. Lean too far to the left, and you’ll tip over. Overcompensate and you’ll careen off the road. Turn the handlebar too sharp and it’ll all come to an abrupt stop in a heap.
Here’s my learning from it all: Youth workers have to juggle multiple things at once. Some well-meaning person may be shouting at you with how to fix the mess of your ministry. You’ve fallen and it hurts, but you get back up again. Even though you feel wobbly, you fight for balance. Keep your head up and your eyes on the goal … because you’re about to take off.
From my dad on the subject:
It seems like only a shadow of a long-forgotten dream as I glimpse myself standing next to a bobbing head with a crew-cut and tear-filled eyes. Mastering a bicycle is not easy, and bleakly he sways toward the garage, head lowered, knees bloody, walking his bike alone – somewhere between his wanting to ride and his certainty he will always fall.
Tomorrow, though, I will run behind, arms out to catch him. He’ll tilt, then balance out of my reach, and with frenzied pedalling race the wind until distance makes him small. Only now do I realize that to teach him I first had to take him by the hand, then follow, and once he learned, I had to let him go.
Next week, I’ve decided that my kids will learn to tie their shoes. Not expecting to learn too much from that, but you never know.