Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

I Like To Ride My Bicycle

So, awesome things: my kid can ride a bike! We got him a two-wheeler for Xmas, and after some discussion and research and talking to other parents, we decided to skip training wheels entirely. (They’re good for getting a kid comfortable on a bike and learning to steer, sure, but they just delay the inevitable necessity of learning to balance on two wheels and falling on your head a few times and so on.)

He’d messed around on the bike a couple of times since getting it, but last Saturday was the first day I really had time to devote an afternoon to helping him figure it out. We went down the block to the elementary school (where he’ll be at Kindergarten next year), because it has a big paved area and lots of paths, including a nice long wide straightaway. To simplify things for him I lowered the seat a lot, so he could put down his feet to stop if he panicked. We did the whole “you ride while I run alongside and keep the bike from falling over” thing a few times, then the “me letting go so you can coast” thing.

He picked it up remarkably quickly. Within half an hour he was pedaling around, though I had to give him a little push to get him started. Within an hour he was getting himself started, muttering “stomp, glide” to himself to remember how to begin the process. By the time we were done for the afternoon he’d pretty much mastered turning. We raised the seat to a reasonable height and went out again the next day. Once he adjusted to getting started with the seat up higher, he just merrily rode around (pursued by a little kid on a scoot-bike who adored him. I remember when my son was the little one chasing adoringly after older kids!). The only thing he doesn’t have the hang of yet is using the brakes to stop. He tends to put his feet down and drag his toes on the asphalt (ack, his shoes!) or just, like, steers into a hedge. But he’ll get it.

I gotta say, seeing him get the hang of riding, looking at the gigantic grin spread across his face, hearing his astonished delighted little voice shout “I did it BY MYSELF!” — it was the most enjoyable afternoon I’ve had in a long time. (On twitter I said teaching him to ride a bike was the most joyfully transcendent time I’ve had in the absence of hallucinogens, and it’s pretty true.) I’m excited to go out riding around on trails with him.

He’s basically been a great kid lately. We’ve been watching superhero movies together! (Though during last night’s film I had to try to explain what an “antihero” is, which is tricky given his clear 5-year-old morality.) He says he wants to be an artist and a writer when he grows up! (And he’s always asking us for help to spell things so he can write “stories,” which are admittedly mostly lists of animals and foods, and demands to be taken to Disneyland. But it’s a start!) We had to take him to the office with us yesterday because he had a holiday at school (but A Certain Magazine never sleeps), and he was basically great all day, and super helpful — which doesn’t provide much fodder for funny Officeboy tweets, but is way easier to cope with.

Most promising development: after years of him waking one of us up whenever he wakes up — even if it’s 5:30 in the morning (ohgodpleasegodnonotagain) — we finally convinced him to amuse himself until at least 7 am, pointing out that he’s capable of getting his own applesauce and yogurt for breakfast, and agreeing to leave out a tablet for him so he can play games or watch streaming video if he gets too bored. It’s worked for the past two days, and the collective mood of his parents is vastly improved.

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