Playtime with my kids is somewhat precarious. What my kids deem as fun and what I deem as fun are two totally different things. The good news is that I can simply laugh jovially and they recognized that I may be enjoying myself, and that lends itself to having fun. Sometimes it’s not that easy. As a child of the consumer culture in which we live, and someone who adores pop culture, I often times find myself trying to force the same happy memories that I had as a kid. I’m quite positive that when my son is old enough, I will do my best to regurgitate my entire G.I. Joe experience with him. He’s not there yet, so for now, it’s my 4 year old (on the 16th, btw) daughter I have to work with. Obviously G.I. Joe doesn’t work, and ultimately it’s my wife that drops nostalgia on her with the likes of Care Bears and My Little Pony (all of which my daughter has taken the bait on!). So, in that case, I have to take a more asexual route: bikes.
Bikes were a mainstay in my home. Before kids were being taken on a regular basis, and before Amber Alerts and such, when I was a kid things where deemed ‘safer.’ I don’t know if this was true, but the amount of freedom I had as a kid is almost unthinkable in the world we now live in. Bikes were the first thing I had to grant me an enormous amount of freedom. Within that was the time in which I spent time with my family, particularly my father, riding bikes together. It was one of the few things I bonded with him on. The bike was one of those cool fun and exciting things that still excite me to this day. It excites my daughter too….in theory.
Because of my own connections, I was able to secure a kids bike last winter. My wife and I had considered holding onto it until her 4th birthday, but couldn’t stomach it. My wife was pretty excited, but nothing compared to my own excitement. I had visions of running along side my daughter and her new bicycle, smiles splashed across our faces as we produced some fantastic memories as father and daughter and the bike. When we revealed the bike, her face lit up. It was pink with a white basket on the front. It matched her love of pink, and she was particularly excited about the basket as she has been on a kick where she gathers things. To have a place to put said things sealed the deal for her. As she looked at the bike, appropriately ooohing and aaahhhhing, I suggested we go for a ride. “Um……naw. Maybe later.” I was crushed. It didn’t dawn on me that perhaps the beautiful machine in front of her would be intimidating to her somehow. I managed to coax her onto it though, and we took her first bike ride.
My daughter’s first bike ride was a disaster. She had previously had a tricycle, which works well for little kids because it’s ‘fixed’. That means that the pedals move when the bike moves no matter what. The bike she was riding was a ‘freewheel’ which meant that she had to pedal the bike in order for her to accelerate. I just explained this to you, and I’m confident that you know what I’m talking about. My daughter? Not so much. Every time we’d get going, she would do the one things she was a natural at: hit the brakes. When she gets going, and slams on the breaks, it jars everything. I am in awe of her not crashing because of this, and will chalk it up to her inherited bike handling skills. But where she may be able to stay upright well, the girl couldn’t pedal to save her life.
We made it a block when my daughter looked up at me and said “Dad, can we go home now?” I conceded that it was time. One block, 30 minutes, and frustration all around. We’ve managed to figure out how to have some fun with this, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s now June and her ability to ride her bike has only now taken hold. I am hopeful that it will grow organically into something she pulls fond memories from in the future. For now, she’s just going back to her My Little Pony’s.