While remembering how to ride a bike may not be an issue, learning how to ride is a different story. Our middle child, K, has wanted to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels for about a year now. Well, she hasn’t so much wanted to learn how to. She has wanted to fast-forward to the knowledge part of things.
Recently, I happened upon a second-hand balance bike…you know, the weird looking kind with no pedals. I picked it up, thinking it would be too small for K, but assumed it would be good practice for our youngest. Once I got it home, K decided to take it for a spin down the slope in our backyard. After a few tries of guiding it with her feet, we encouraged her to lift her feet and balance instead. Soon she had the hang of things.
With new understanding, she traded the balance bike for her actual one. She rode it down the slope a few times, proud of her accomplishment. Then I challenged her to go further. “Do it in the driveway,” I said. She did not know if she could do a flat surface without gravity and momentum to lead the way. With a bit of trepidation, she gathered up the courage and took it for a spin. With tense shoulders, she wobbled her way down the driveway. It may not have been perfection, but it was enough of an accomplishment to give her pride.
She pedaled up and down the driveway a few more times before it happened: she fell. It wasn’t hard and it wasn’t enough to even cause a scrape, but it was enough to shake her confidence.
But the fall isn’t what matters. It’s what happens afterwards that counts.
With tears still streaming down her cheeks, I asked if she wanted to give it another try. Without hesitation, she nodded yes and began to stand up. I had assumed she would pick up the bike and park it in the garage, done for the day. Instead, she pushed on, not letting one fall stop her. I was proud of her for basically teaching herself to ride her bike, but I was even more proud of her resolve to continue on even after falling.
I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve encountered a fall or even just a hiccup, a momentary blip that has changed my course, and instead of wiping away the tears and getting back on the bike, I’ve sat there on the cement and sobbed. Or, maybe I’ve kicked the bike (because clearly it was the bike’s fault, not my own), perhaps even muttering a few curse words under my breath (inaudibly if the kids were around, of course). I am too ashamed to count how many times I have been too defeated or intimidated to have the courage to brush myself off and get back on that proverbial bike.
K didn’t do any of that. She didn’t get mad or intimidated. She didn’t haul the bike into the garage and resolve to give up. She persevered. She got back up and pedaled on.
But the story doesn’t end there. After a few more trips up and down the driveway, it happened again. She fell and a bit harder than the first time. While I hurried towards her, her brother and little sister got to her rescue first. Her sister offered her a hug and then looked at me and said, “She’s okay, Mom,” while her brother ran into the house to make her a bandage out of a paper towel and duct tape. I stood to the side and watched her siblings comfort and care for her.
You see, the thing about falling isn’t just what you decide to do afterwards. The other part is who you have surrounded yourself with when it happens. Sure, I was there to care for her, but at that moment, she didn’t need me. She had an older brother and a younger sister who came to her rescue, offering comfort in their unique ways. In that moment, I saw how blessed she is because of those bonds that have formed over time. And it made me grateful for those people in my life who have my back, who are ready to hug me when I fall and offer bandages to cover my hurts.
The truth is that sometimes you fall. The question is what will you do and who will be there to brush you off when it happens? Failures are bound to happen and when they do, I hope that you have someone to embrace you, another to cover your wounds, and the courage to dust yourself off and continue on.