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Monday, July 8, 2013

Teaching my Daughter to Ride Bike, a Tiring Task...

Getting her bearings...
I did it!

After getting another crack at making up for previous paternal failures, I finally taught my younger daughter to ride a bike.

Now, for those that don’t know me, you probably can’t imagine the weight I have carried as a father for the past several years, after having failed to teach my older daughter to ride a bicycle, because I was always “too busy,” which, in loose terms, means I was too lazy! (My dad had to teach her)

So, after living with this burden on my conscience for some time, and at my wife’s insistence last Sunday (obviously, the weight was keeping me pinned to the couch on most days!), I finally decided to do what dads across America (and the world) have been doing since the late 1800’s. (It always takes me a while to get around to doing things!)

Well, I have to say, it definitely wasn't as easy as it looks on TV commercials.

To begin with, I lost my patience even before my 8-year-old ever got on the bike!  She started crying and going on about being afraid, and in my usual loving fatherly way, I scolded her, ridiculed her and proceeded to put her bike away, as she went off crying even harder (to use the words tweeted by A.J. Clemente, the North Dakota anchorman, whose first word on air was the F-bomb, before getting fired that same night, "things couldn't have gone much worse!").

Maybe, that’s another reason I never taught my older daughter to ride.  Patience has never been one of my virtues.  Not to mention, that when I learned to ride, my uncle came home with the bicycle for my 4th or 5th birthday, removed the training wheels and told me to get on.  I started pedaling and crashed into the wall of our front porch.  It went uphill from there (literally speaking since we lived on a hill in Cuba and I would pedal up the hill and then coast down as fast as I could).  I learned to ride through lots of falls, bumps, scrapes and minor pain! 

I keep forgetting that I am raising two girls who aren't as fearless as I was as a kid. Although, when I took the training wheels off my son's bike recently, he started crying and saying he was scared too!

Anyway, after my daughter’s breakdown, I then turned my attention to my 12-year-old daughter who wanted to play catch in the front yard.
I am always haunted by a story a friend once told me about his daughter trying out for her high school softball team.  When he got to the tryout, all excited about his daughter's initiative and desire to play a sport he loved, he realized she was the only one on the field that was throwing like a girl.  Moreover, she got hit by balls thrown at her!  And, then it hit him.  He had never taken the time to teach her how to play catch.  He was embarrassed for her and for his own failure as a father.  Therefore, anytime my kids want to play catch, especially my daughters, I jump at the chance (that is, as my wife would say, unless the Mets are playing on TV!).

About 15 minutes later, my younger daughter comes out wearing a helmet and her soccer shin guards (as if that was going to help) and pushing her bike next to her.

“I’m ready to learn,” she said.

Despite my poor desire to oblige on a very hot and humid Sunday afternoon (it's been raining for so long in South Florida that it feels like we're swimming in soup any time we're outside), I knew my wife was coming home from the gym soon, where she went after insisting that I teach my daughter to ride, and would be expecting at least some progress (fear is probably the most effective motivation for most husbands!).

About an hour later, exhausted from having to run from one side of the street to another a gazillion times, while holding the back of her bicycle seat to keep her balanced, as she wobbled and zigzagged her handle bars from side to side, and sweating like Albert Brooks anchoring the newscast in Broadcast News, in the process (at least he didn't drop the F-bomb!), she finally started getting the hang of it and was pedaling away by herself after a short push, as I trailed closely behind.

By the time my wife got back, I was huffing and puffing like a chain smoker climbing up the Statue of Liberty and, of course, she was ready to show off.

“Mommy, watch me,” she said, which I knew was my cue to do some more running.

Aside from one mishap, where she lost control and, in trying to catch her, I actually pushed her down and, fortunately, was able to leap over her before my 250-lbs “big-boned” body landed on top of her, which I thought was going to scare the heck out of her and make her want to stop riding but, instead, she laughed it off, along with my wife and older daughter, it was smooth sailing (or riding in this case).

She didn't quite get the hang of turning or pushing off on her own until this week, and, one time went across the busy street in front of our house because she couldn't stop (luckily there were no cars coming), but overall, she learned to ride and, despite the unplanned work I was forced into, it was a great experience on every level.  

As some of you may have read, A.J. recently landed a bartending job in Delaware. My wife was happy I finally got off the couch and taught my daughter how to ride.  I fulfilled my fatherly duty and can put to rest the guilt (at least for a while) and I lost about 10 pounds in the process!

Now, to see what I do about my son...

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