All year, he hasn't really done much bike-riding. He would go out now and then to power up and down the path in our little cul-de-sac, but it was awkward for one parent to observe him and simultaneously negotiate with Mabel on her inherited trike-with-push-handle as she decided to go, or get off, or want to push herself, or whatever she was intent on doing while her brother was half a road ahead and all I could do was hope he'd have the sense to stop at the Stop sign. Once or twice we tried taking the bikes to the playground, but that was a disaster, with Monkey falling off as soon as the road inclined at all, and deciding to push his bike all the way there, and me trying to pick him up and help him push and keep Mabel on hers and get us all out of the path of the oncoming bus before we were mown down. (We weren't mown.)
So what I'm saying is that the bike hasn't really been much of a success, and I blamed us for not getting him enough opportunities to practice. A few weeks ago the weather was beautiful and we took him with his bike, and Mabel with the chunky scooter, to a local lake that has a nice smooth path around it where people like to walk, skate, rollerblade, and bike. Monkey biked up the path from the parking lot towards the lake. Mabel scooted about ten yards, and then demanded that I carry the scooter, or her, or both. So we sent B back to the car to stow the scooter again, while I nearly lost Mabel in the lake as I disentangled Monkey from some thorns in the grass.
Then we tried to convince Monkey to ride around the lake.
"It's too bumpy."
"It's fine. Look, it's flat."
"No, there's a hill."
"There's a tiny slope and then it's competely level."
"No. I don't want to. It's all uppy and downy."
Et cetera. We turned around and went home, since the alternative was watching Monkey push his bike along the path for a mile, bumping his feet into the training wheels at every step, and carrying Mabel who didn't want to walk.
In an effort to revitalise interest in the bike, we were thinking that it might be a good idea to take the pedals off (and the training wheels) so that he could use it as a walking bike, which they say is the best way to teach children to balance on a two-wheeler. B got as far as removing the training wheels and one pedal on Tuesday evening, and was stuck on the second pedal, which wouldn't budge, when we heard that Thursday would be bike day at school. So the wheels and the pedal went back on, and Monkey happily took his bike and his helmet to school.
Last year, bike day happened just a week after he got his new bike, and he was thrilled to show it off. This year, I feared he hadn't progressed in the slightest, though his training wheels were now a little further off the ground. As I went in the door to collect him from school, a mum said to me, "I hear Monkey had a big adventure on his bike." Uh oh, I thought. An accident? But no - he was all excited because, as far as I can figure out from his somewhat garbled version of events, the training wheels came off the ground for a moment and he balanced on just the two wheels. It was a revelation to him.
So, armed with this newfound impetus, we went back to the lake yesterday, this time with a stroller for Mabel. Monkey took off down the path beside the lake, and basically never looked back.
Next time we go, we'll bring a grown-up's bike too, and someone can accompany Monkey on a wheeled vehicle. By the looks of him, in a month or two we'll be able to take off the training wheels altogether. I think it was just one of those things that had to click, and no matter how much practice he got, it wasn't ready to happen until now.
Five is good.