In February, something amazing happened.
Ru learned to ride his bike without stabilisers.
Yeah, you heard me.
Understandably, he’s thrilled and pretty proud of himself.
It all came about in a rather unexpected fashion. You see, when Ru was in school back in 2013, he used to ride his bike with stabilisers to and from school. After a couple of months, two boys made a comment about him still using stabilisers… ‘like a baby’. Ru’s a pretty sensitive little guy so he took this to heart, and refused to ride his bike any more and swapped to his scooter.
He held onto those comments for a long time. I would say “Hey, want to go to the park on your bike?” and for the most part, would be politely rebuffed. On the odd occasions he did want to, he’d only ride for a couple of minutes before stopping and making a comment about his stabilisers. I’d offer to take them off, and he’d decline sadly. ” I can’t ride without stabilisers.”
I even once had a well-meaning stranger tell him “Oh, you can take those stabilisers off! You’re a big boy, big boys don’t need them!”. I can only assume she thought she was being encouraging. Probably didn’t even cross her mind that she was shaming him.
Ru did not take this particularly well. In fact, he growled loudly at the stranger, threw down his bike and went to play in the play park.
I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do about the whole thing. When I was a kid, I benefited from my dad’s Just Do It style of parenting. “Stop faffing about and just DO it!”. Perfect for me when I needed a push over the edge of the swimming pool, or abseiling down a 7 story building, shooting guns for the first time, and yes, riding a bike. Pixie is the same as me. No messing about. No ‘faffing’. Learning to ride a bike was sprung on me one afternoon. “You’re going to learn to ride a proper bike today. Come on.”
Ru is different. He can’t be rushed. He does things in his own time. He’s anxious and cautious and likes time and space to explore at his own pace.
Stephen is incredibly tuned in to Ru’s needs, and how his brain works, and he told me to just leave it. Stop pushing. Stop ‘helpfully’ suggesting he ‘try it just once’.
So we left it. Nearly a year. Until about last month. We went to the park for a meet-up with some other families. A friend’s little girl Thea was riding her bike-without-stabilisers, and I could see Ru jealously eyeing her up. He wandered over to me, head down. Now, I know better than to outright ask him what’s wrong, so I sat next to him and after a few moments he forlornly said “I wish I had my bike and I could ride it without stabilisers in the park.”.
Thea asked me why he was sad, and I explained he wanted his bike. So this little darling doll pipes up to tell Ru that he can ride *her* bike. I was about to answer for him (something I really shouldn’t do), but Ru surprised me by grinning at her and saying yes!
Now, Thea is teeny. She’s younger than Pixie so you can imagine how small her bike is. And you can imagine how comedic it was to watch my gangly-limbed boy struggling with this mouse-sized bike. And falling off. Repeatedly.
Only all of a sudden…
He wasn’t struggling.
He was riding it.
PROPERLY riding it.
Obviously the next day, he wanted to try it on his *own* bike.
This came at the exact perfect time for us. For me. I’d been having a bit of an unschooling wobble, and this just completely reassured me. Ru is smart. And this just shows that when he’s ready, he will acquire the skills he needs, whatever they are, in his own time, when he’s ready, and not a moment earlier.
We could have pushed him before he was ready. We could have forced him.
I’m so glad we didn’t. I’m so glad we followed his lead.