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The Bike Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old.

by Hal Evan Caplan
April 24, 2007

My Teacher is my three year old son. He is constantly testing me as a parent, and because of this I actually learn some of life's little lessons. His initial goal may not have been to teach me something, but I'm convinced that he does have an overall agenda for me. Sometimes if I'm on the lookout, the lesson is loud and clear; however, most of the time I have no idea there is a lesson in the making until he brings it to my attention.

My Teacher has a bike and boy does he ride it like it's going out of style. It is one of his favorite things to do...and believe me, anytime we are outside that is ALL he wants to do. He is actually really good at it, too. Sometimes I get scared watching him zoom around because he gets going so fast and THEN he would "turn". This of course causes the bike to go up on the front tire and only one of the training wheels, bypassing the back tire entirely. I picture him flying off and crashing... which oddly enough, has yet to happen.

My Teacher rides his bike really hard. Recently, he bent one of the training wheel bars that hold the training wheel level to the ground. I bent the training wheel bar back to level ? at least as level as possible. From then on, each time my Teacher would ride his bike, the bar would bend and I would bend it back. This continued to happen until the training wheel bar finally broke off the bike.

I knew this would upset my Teacher since it would interrupt his daily trek, so I immediately went on a mission to find another set of training wheels. I checked everywhere I figured would carry them. First, I stopped in the store where I bought the bike; no luck. Then, I tried the large mart-type store; no luck. Next, I looked in the local toy store; no luck and finally, a bike shop that carried kid's bikes; again, no luck. Don't get me wrong, these stores all sold the bikes and even training wheels, but they did not carry training wheels for a bike that small.

My Teacher really was starting to get anxious because he wanted to ride his bike. I needed to do something...and quick. We had another bike in storage for him that we bought over a year ago at a garage sale. Our intention was to give it to him for his 4th or 5th birthday as it was a much larger bike. Since that bike also had training wheels, my solution was to get that bike out of storage and give it to him now.

We took the big bike to his favorite park to ride. He noticed that a lot of the kids did not have training wheels on their bikes and this became somewhat of an obsession with him. He began to stop and point out each bike that passed without them. He then started to express that he was a big boy and that he did not need training wheels. On our way home from the park, my Teacher decided to teach his lesson.

"Dad", He said.
"Yes", I replied.
"When we get home can you take off the other training wheel because I want to ride without them", he suggested.
"I don?t think that's a good idea", I commented.
"Why, not?" He asked in a frustrated tone of voice.
"Because you are too young." I replied, actually feeling bad about the answer I just gave.

He did not respond immediately and he sat there quietly. Then about 10 minutes later, out of the blue, he said in a confident tone,

"Dad, I can do it."
"Do what?" I asked.
"Ride my bike without training wheels." He replied.
"I don't think so." I shot back.
"But Dad, I can do it - I really can." He insisted.
"I just don't want you to get hurt." I expressed.
"Dad, I know that I can do it...I know I can ride without my training wheels."

How could I resist? I should give him the chance to at least try, I thought to myself. Because it was so close to the time that we normally go inside for the night, I made a deal with my Teacher. The deal was that I would work on the smaller bike and take off the broken piece of the training wheel plus the training wheel that was still intact, and let him try to ride without training wheels for a few minutes. I anticipated that he would get frustrated and throw in the preverbal white towel and then want to go inside.

At first, I had him sit on the bike and I walked with him holding the bike upright so he could get a feel for it without the training wheels attached. I then had him peddle while I was still holding onto the bike.

He stopped after about 6 steps.
"No, Dad let go", he exclaimed.
"Let me just help for a little bit." I reassured him.
"I don't need your help...remember, I know I can do it by myself", he demanded.
"I know you can ride your bike without your training wheels, but just let me just help, please", I declared.
"NO!", he demanded again.
"OK, go ahead", I said feeling very concerned. "You can do me", I continued.
"I WILL!" He yelled.

I helped him get started by giving him a little push until he started peddling; then he just took off. To my amazement, he did not fall at all, nor was he off balance. He kept going and going and going. He rode all over the place...making turns, riding on the sidewalk, the grass, going fast, going slow, and finally, he stopped where I was standing.

"...SEE DAD...
...I TOLD YOU...
...I KNEW THAT I COULD DO IT ALL BY MYSELF!" He exclaimed with a huge smile on his face.
"You did an amazing job!" I replied, also with a huge smile on my face.

"I am so proud of you!" I declared over and over.
"I knew I could do it Dad, you just needed to let me try." He explained.

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: No matter how challenging the task me be, always believe in yourself!

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors and is always willing to learn...and of course, always learns from his son.

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