I’ve recently started giving private bike riding lessons, sometimes starting from scratch, and sometimes working mainly on safety training. This morning i was starting from scratch in Independence Park with a brand new bike and boy who hadn’t yet learned to ride. I’ve done this a few times now, with various degrees of success. Sometimes a person is so ready it just comes naturally, and sometimes it takes a little time to get things going.
Through this process I continue to learn lessons about children, humans and how we learn (as opposed to how we’d prefer to learn). With my perverse sense of always wanting things to be easy and go smoothly, i sometimes feel that watching someone learn to ride bares a pretty decent resemblance to how I learn lessons, and sometimes have to learn the same lessons again.
I think I should say this now. I experience great excitement in vicariously learning to ride a bike again and again. Seeing that face when a child has learned to combine balance and pedaling…it’s a really good feeling. It sends joy sparkling through my entire being to watch someone’s smile when they are flying down the sidewalk and they’ve realized they’ve made their own bike go. It’s one of the most unique feelings of freedom that exists, wheeling around on a bicycle.
Today I got to watch a young person work so hard (we were both sweating). He tried again and again, amongst many failed attempts and a few falls. I’ve learned from experience when a little, well placed advice is called for and when to stay quiet and allow focus to happen. And also when to squelch my joyous enthusiasm as there’s nothing more detrimental to focus that a poorly placed, “OMG YOU’RE DOING IT!” In my moments of keeping myself restrained, and managing my own behavior I began to have a conversation with myself about struggle and how struggle and failure get such a bad name in our current world.
This morning in the park I was considering my own relationship with struggle. Struggle is such a natural ingredient of bike riding. You simply can’t learn without struggling to do it. Its kind of the same thing as learning to walk. If you’ve ever watched that process in a little person, it’s excruciating and takes such a long time, from pulling up, to balancing for a few seconds, to sliding along furniture one handed, letting go of the brace for the first time, and finally taking those first few wobbly steps. It’s the same struggle learning to bike. There’s no way around that hard work and difficulty. Today I mentioned, “Your body is learning to do a new movement, it’s learning how to balance, lean a little and turn (we were practicing turning). Right now your body is figuring out how much to lean and how much to turn the handlebars.” He replied with a smile, “I wish my body would hurry up.”
I think we all wish that about ourselves throughout life. I wish I could just get past this struggle. I wish this was easier. Why does this take so long. Why do I keep having to learn this? I’ve learned over time, I think sometimes from watching people learn how to ride bikes, that we are all just living here on this planet, learning to be human. We come to each new stage of the came so unprepared for the next part. We get this new bit of life and have to learn a brand new skill and we’re like babies learning how to walk all over again.
I’ve learned you can’t push someone into learning faster, you can’t force it, you can’t rush it. The body goes through the practice for as long as it needs to and it happens when it happens. All that body needs is some time, and, in the best circumstances, for someone to bear witness and be patient. Today I got to see the exact moment of transition from, okay I can sometimes get this bike going but it’s still sort of accidental, to a body realizing without thought or pressure that it knows the movement, that it knows how to fly. If you watch someone on a bicycle you realize what a balancing act a body is doing to make everything go and turn and keep from falling. It’s kind of a miracle.
Anyway, enough. Just know that whatever bicycle you’re learning to ride today, give yourself time and call on the patient people in your life to let you know you’re getting there and to just keep trying.