cycles

Bike Camp - Day 4

Boo riding a two-wheeler for the first time outside at Bike Camp
July 25, 2013
photo credit: Melissa Firman

“I’ve been told and I believe
That life is meant for livin’
And even when my chips are low
There’s still some left for givin’
I’ve been many places
Maybe not as far as you
So I think I’ll stay awhile
And see if some dreams come true.” 

“Cycles” ~ (which happens to be one of my all-time favorite songs ever), written by Gayle Caldwell, sung by Frank Sinatra

Three seconds after I snapped this photo at Bike Camp today, my boy crashed into the guardrail.

Before that, though, he was more than excited to finally be riding the two-wheeler outside. He did great on the first day of camp and on Day 2 during Tandem Tuesday. Wednesday’s “Launch Day” with him being on a a two-wheeler for the first time was awesome (and captured on video). He couldn’t stop talking about it ALL. DAY. LONG. 

“I feel like a MAN!” he bellowed, puffing out his 4’4″ frame at the thought of having mastered the bike.

So today, after a mere 20 or so practice laps around the indoor track, our group of iCan Shine instructors, parents, volunteers, and folks from The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh headed outside into a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming spectacular 70 degree-Pittsburgh-summer-day.

As these things tend to do, the crash happened almost instantly, almost in slow-motion. He took the left turn a bit too wide, was going down the incline a little too fast. My boy slammed into the guardrail, doubling over and holding his chest.

I’m not a reactionary parent. I don’t fall to pieces in such instances. Upon realizing that there wasn’t any blood and that nothing was visibly broken (except, we would later discover tonight, bent glasses), my first thought was, strangely, of our NICU days nearly a dozen years ago.

Maybe I have the Royal Baby Prince “Curious Boy” George on my mind (although I’m kind of disinterested).

Or maybe I was still thinking about the world’s first test-tube baby turning 35 and remembering how sci-fi that once seemed, having little idea how that very technology would bring me my own little cyclist.

Or, maybe it has to do with a bunch of thoughts crashing together.

My boy got right back up on the bike and finished the camp session with a few more practice laps indoors, riding around the track. And I was so incredibly proud of him for that, for holding it together and being able to somehow find it within himself to do that.

It wasn’t without its slight setback, though. He’s convinced that outdoor terrain isn’t for him after all, that he’ll be just fine sticking to the indoor track, thank you very much. Maaaaaaaaybe he will ride in our driveway. He’ll see.

“We didn’t go through all this to let this bike become a museum piece,” said The Husband to me this morning. “We need to undo this damage, stat.”

That is his way. Reverse course. Get back on track. Because this feels oh-so-familiar, like the spinning wheel of regression. It feels like all the miraculous gains of the the last 3.5 days have vanished.

I know that’s not true. But what we know and what we feel often aren’t the same things, right?

But as we assessed whether our boy was all right (he seems to be), and called the pediatrician to see if they wanted us to bring him in (no, as long as he wasn’t short of breath or in pain or otherwise markedly different), we spent some time talking with our boy. We talked a lot about the bike crash and reminded him how awesome it was riding the bike, and about how sometimes we need to take a chance of falling down in order to experience the truly great things that life has to offer. 

This seems intangible to my boy, this fluffy talk about risk and chances and goals. I’m not getting through on a practical, concrete sense, so we cycled back.

“Let’s make a plan for today,” I said this morning, in preparation for the final day of Bike Camp. “What about when we go outside on the bike, we take things a little slower at first. Not as fast.”

“Maybe start with three laps or something?” he offered.

“That sounds like a great idea, pal. I know you can do that.”

“Yeah.”

Bike Camp isn’t just about learning to ride a bike. Sure, that’s our goal and our kids’ goals and there are very tangible benefits that accompany this: increased independence and self-confidence, better health as a result of increased physical activity, additional opportunities for socialization … just to name a few.

But no matter what, in the small early hours of last night when I started writing this post, I just kept coming back to those very early days – the infertility, the weeks in the NICU, the autism diagnosis, what I refer to as “the black hole years” – and more recently with my long-term unemployment and the uncertainty and the cancer …and I realized that I needed to listen to myself. 

As Frank says, I’ve been many places. Different paths, yes, and maybe not as many exotic ones as you, but many places nonetheless.

And these places have been bumpy and caused us to stumble, to fall.

Hard.

But the only way we can keep our balance is to get back up and keep moving.

One, two, three laps at a time.

Life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  ~Albert Einstein

You may also like:
he’s got a ticket to ride (bike camp, day 1)
in tandem (bike camp, day 2)

5 thoughts on “cycles

  1. Erin

    First, let me just say that I’m really glad your son emerged unscathed from his bike crash! I AM a reactionary parent and even just reading this made my legs do that Jello-thing that they do at even the thought of a kid getting injured. I’m a huge wuss!

    This was so beautifully written. It really touched me. I’m still fairly new to your world (thanks Pgh Guest Blogging Thingie from April 1st!), so I was unaware of these huge moments of your life that you reference. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. <3

  2. Lisa Ruby

    Hi Melissa,

    Please let us know if you need additional ideas on how to keep your son riding and building his skills. Our mission is to teach people with disabilities to ride a bicycle, but also to help them become lifelong riders. Take advantage of his increased self-confidence and self-perception and get him out practicing in a nice flat open parking lot or outdoor running track until he generalizes the skills from camp. It just take a bit of time for our kids to become experienced riders. Learning to ride a bicycle is a metaphor for life. The Chinese saying “Fall down seven times, stand up eight” sort of sums things up. It happens. Like everything else it is our reaction that matters.

    Peace & blessings,
    Lisa

  3. Pingback: in tandem | melissa firman

  4. Pingback: he’s got a ticket to ride | melissa firman

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