Ancient History

Follow Me?


The rest of the story

I have been writing for nearly three years. Longtime readers (hi, Mom!) may remember this post from September 2005. It’s one of my favorites. I am calling it “The rest of the story” because of the new addition at the end. From time-to-time, I am going to resurrect favorite old posts and update what has happened since, a la Paul Harvey explaining what happened to the dejected pie-enthusiast at the lunchcounter/the girl saving bottlecaps to pay for her trip to Hollywood/the boy who rode a donkey to Kansas City to buy his mom a birthday present.



A woman in my college dorm at CU did not know how to ride a bike. I thought it was highly bizarre and almost scandalous she never learned. I believed her parents failed her on some very deep level. They provided food, clothing, and shelter…but not the training to balance on a banana seat and two wheels with Hoyle playing cards stuck in the spokes.

She never knew the joy of loading a plastic basket slung over the handlebar with dandelions and an alarmed toad from the neighborhood duck pond. She never careened around a corner at the bottom of a heart-poundingly steep hill and felt her tires slip out from under her because of the algae in the gutter. Oh, the places she didn’t go, the shoelaces she didn’t wind in the gears, the lifetime scars from spectacular wipe-outs she can’t use as a conversational piece.

But, for the grace of God, will go my children.

Our former neighborhood was not bicycle friendly. The street was busy and there were always a lot of cars parked along the sidewalks. The idea of teaching wobbly young children to dodge cars both moving and parked genuinely scared hubby and I, so when the question of “when can we learn to ride our bikes?” came up, we always told them someday, when we moved.

We moved and now live in a much safer neighborhood to learn the art of bicycle riding. Unfortunately, our delay meant poor Aidan and Ryley have now passed the point of learning balance easily. There seems to be a window of opportunity between too young and too old and they are right on the border of being on the crotchety side. Plus they have enough life experience to know Crashing + Street + Elbows + Knees = Very Very Bad.

On Labor Day, the seven of us walked down to our neighborhood park, armed with knowledge culled from an article I found online, entitled How To Learn to Ride a Bike in 15 Minutes. Aidan, Ryley, and Sam walked with their helmets strapped on. They pushed their bikes. Everyone was ridiculously excited, including hubby and I. We were fulfilling an important part of our parental obligation, finally, and it felt good that within 15 or 20 minutes my kids would join the ranks of good balancers and circus dogs.

We got to the park and the hill especially picked out for the occasion. We helped the kids poise themselves on the top of the hill and gave them instructions. “GO!” we shouted. Tommy and Joel clapped their encouragement.

Nobody moved. All three of them looked down the hill, looked at each other, and looked at us. Hubby and I looked at each other. “Who’s going first?” I prodded, weakly.

It was too scary. We moved to a less frightening slope and tried again. This time, Sam was determined to go first. I ran alongside him down the hill and was impressed with his balance. Aidan and Ryley followed with hubby and I trotting alongside, but they had a much harder time balancing and were more fearful.

“15 minutes to Biking Fun” decayed into “90 minutes to Screaming, Crying, Frustration, Grass Stains, and Skid Marks”.

They were sincerely surprised they couldn’t simply sit on their bikes, pedal, and find themselves in Paris wearing a yellow jersey.

Despite comical bike riding demonstrations from hubby and I and pep talks that seemed lofty at the time but futile in retrospect, the point came when we realized they were too dejected to keep trying. We walked the bikes home. None of the kids have mentioned going out again. Their bikes are hanging by hooks in the garage like metallic and rubber catches of the day and I am starting to detect the iffy smell of regret.

We will try again, perhaps this weekend.


The rest of the story:


We did try again. That next weekend, and the next. Then winter came and the bikes languised in the brittle garage until last summer, when I was hugely pregnant and cranky and didn’t want to trot behind anything but the ice cream truck. Another winter came, more languishing for the bikes. It was brutally cold and snow covered the ground well into spring. Once it melted, the bikes were retrieved. The kids would learn, we didn’t care how many boxes of bandaids it would take.

By the 4th of July, Aidan was an expert. Soon after, Ryley joined her. A few mishaps occured, but we are glad and gratified to see them zipping around the nearby lake, careening down the street, and enjoying a part of childhood I adored—the freedom to explore the neighborhood on two wheels. Sam is this () close, but his bike is a touch too big for him. Tommy and Joel are the proud owners of two darling little bikes. Beatrix has a shaded, padded luxury recliner, mounted on four wheels—her stroller. She enjoys the neighborhood jaunts asleep, usually.

I don’t envy her.

5 comments to The rest of the story

  • My brother and I learned on our little traveled back road with hills on both sides. It was a lovely place to ride. My children have it harder–we live on a major highway which, despite being 35 in our residential zone, everyone travels at 55-75. My SIL taught my oldest in their quiet cul-de-sac last year. After years of trying finally my middle child figured it out and spent the first half of the summer happily riding around and around our house, sidewalk to grass to sidewalk to grass. My son, well he is still in training wheels and being the shy, quiet, less than adventurous one, I expect to find that it will take a few years for him to learn.

  • I love the ‘rest of the story’ angle! My maiden name was Harvey, and everyone I met (it seems in my memory) asked me if I was related to that Paul Harvey rest of the story guy. I’m not. I wish I could jump on a bike and ride through my neighborhood feeling like I was flying!


  • Hi, Mopsey.

    You’re a very pleasant writer. I enjoyed this very much.

    Your sister once told me about riding her bike. You were the only girls in the neighborhood, and were very bad about teasing the boys. As she went down a steep street, and turned to tease some boys on the sidewalk, she lost control, and ended-up in a heap at the bottom of the hill. (She tells this story much, much better.)

    It would be nice to read more stories from your childhood. I got the impression it was amusing.


  • Well I missed the first part, so I’m delighted to read the whole story, happy ending included!! You cracked me up with the ice cream truck line.

    Congratulations to your sweet kiddos, and to you and hubby, for persevering.

  • Shayne

    Oh how I remember that post! As I revealed back then, I cannot ride a bicycle! However, I’m inspired by Aidan and Ryley. I have vowed that when Peter is ready, I will learn alongside him!

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