By Brandy Black
Our six-year-old daughter learned to ride a bike over the last couple weeks. This falls under one of the more significant parenting moments for my wife and me. We tried to explain to our daughter, it is only once in your life that you learn how to ride a bike. It is something we will all remember. Perhaps even her twin 2 year-old brother and sister will recall the moment that Sophia actually began peddling the bicycle toward us as we sat in the park cheering her on, fall after fall. They screamed as the bike came zig zagging toward us.
“You did it!”
“Terrific” says my son.
She had conquered the grass, which in my opinion was much harder than concrete. This feat was not without screaming, crying and yelling at each of us individually for distracting her, standing in her way, letting go of the bike too early, and breathing basically. It was a proud day. But we had another challenge to tackle and that was the concrete. We put much thought into executing this next plan–one fall could be the death of us! We decided on a park that has a flat path and has been deemed by most locals as THE place to learn to ride a bike.
Sophia began saying “I can’t, I can’t do this!”
Susan worked with her but the battle became too much and she passed the baton over to me. After all she had gotten Sophia to actually RIDE the bike the previous week. It was my turn.
A moment I wanted to hold onto, document and remember forever but I knew I was in for a fight. Our kids are willful and opinionated and loud. I can’t imagine where they get those traits from?! Before she got on the bike I told her I didn’t want to hear I can’t, “I don’t tolerate that language, I never allow myself to say it” I explained, “why would I possibly let you convince yourself you can’t do something before you’ve even done it?” I told her that each time she said something negative, she would have to get off the bike.
She got on the bike.
“I can do this” she coached herself, “I know I can, I know I can.”
She began to peddle, wobbly at first.
“You can do this, just keep going, steering straight and keep saying I can do this.”
“I can’t do it, I can’t do it” she said as she moved her handlebars side to side and jumped off the bike.
I took a deep breath.
“Did you hear what you just told yourself? Now get on that bike and follow my rules, only positive things.”
“I can do this.” she said getting back on the bike.
“I can do this” she repeated over and over again as she peddled along.
She began navigating concrete, she was feeling strong, then she saw rose bushes.
“I’m going to fall in the bushes, I’m going to fall…”
“No, you’re not…”
She jumped off the bike again.
“See, you did it again, you told yourself you couldn’t do it”
I began suddenly realized the power of the lesson I was teaching her.. As I listened to my own advice, I thought of the many times my mind has convinced me to fall in my life challenges.
“Get on your bike, let’s do this together” I told her.
She gets on and I begin…
“Say it Sophia, I can do this…”
“I can do this”
“You are doing it, you are peddling, you are focusing straight ahead of you, you are not looking at anything else, you are a bike rider, you know what you are doing, you are going to bike around this entire park without falling and when you pass Mom and your brother and sister, they will be so proud of you. You can ride a bike, you will never not know how to ride a bike. This is the day that you will remember, when you made it around the park…”
I continued on for a good 5 minutes while she peddled, she passed rose bushes, kids playing ball, other kids riding bikes, unfazed, she rode on until we reached our family, she shouted out to them and continued on. All the while, I was doing my mantra, my speech, and realizing how strong and powerful words can be. Words from others but more importantly words to yourself. I realized that the lesson for me and her this day was less about riding a bike and more about knowing that you can do whatever you want to, whatever you tell yourself you can do. Our limitations are only set by ourselves. I know we hear this, we say it, we read about in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble but really, in this moment with my six-year-old, it became true.
We did it, we conquered the concrete, we conquered the mind, we conquered the fear.