he’s got a ticket to ride

I Can Shine Bike Camp

Adaptive bike used by riders at iCan Shine, Inc. bike camp
Monroeville, PA
photo credit: Melissa Firman, July 2013

There was no mistaking my son’s response.

It wasn’t so much what he said, but what he didn’t say.

During his well-visit check up last week, the good doctor (and he is, truly, a good doctor) was talking to him about exercising and trying to eat more fruits and vegetables. At 11 years old, we’re having some challenges on both fronts; as if he’d read my mind, the pediatrician seemed to know the perfect approach to talk to my boy on this issue.

And then, a question. One that he’s probably asked hundreds, thousands of kids.

“Do you ride your bike in the neighborhood, maybe with a friend?”

My boy’s eyes went to the floor. There was no mistaking the look, the loaded weight of that inquiry.

His silence was just a moment, fleeting – accompanied by a quick look to me in the corner where I’d fortunately looked up from my phone to catch his glance.

His blue eyes said it all.

I don’t know how to ride a bike. 

My bike is kinda small. I got it when I was 7. It has training wheels. That’s embarrassing. 

What do you mean, a friend?

“I don’t really do that,” he said to the pediatrician. 

* * *

Once you’ve been through an autism evaluation, you don’t view doctor’s appointments the same way. Ever. At least I don’t. There’s always a feeling of needing to be “on,” of not letting down your guard, of wondering what the hell they are really typing into that computer, of wondering if you are on the same growth curve as all the other parents.

And I know that this shouldn’t matter, but the truth is, it does.

A lot.

Because as our first developmental pediatrician told us, you can’t help but compare kids to each other – and in this case, when you see other kids riding a bike, you can’t help but look at your kid and see another example in which you feel like you screwed up. 

Because we haven’t taught him.

Because we couldn’t.

Because we tried – and then stopped.

Because of The Husband’s herniated disc.

Because it was hot outside.

Because it looked like rain.

Because we’re just not an active, outdoorsy kind of family.

Because he has autism.

Because it was too hard.

Because his anxiety.

Because. Because. Because.

I remembered this post from my friend Alison Piepmeier about her experience with what is now iCan Shine, Inc. (formerly Lose the Training Wheels). I remember thinking how much Boo would benefit from a program like that.

I remembered reading Alison’s post when we were on the cusp of moving to Pittsburgh, and checking to see if our new city had the same program. I remember the feeling of this is going to be okay when I realized that they did. I remembered being at The Children’s Institute (the program host of the iCan Shine Amazing Kids Bike Camp here in Pittsburgh) and mentioning the camp during a job interview I didn’t get.

I remembered my boy’s face in the pediatrician’s office.

This past Friday, I looked to see when the Pittsburgh camp would be taking place, knowing full well we may have missed it. Again.

And there it was. Starting today. Registration ended six weeks ago.

I emailed the camp director anyway.  Long shot … just thought I’d ask … know it’s last minute …

There was one spot left.

* * *

Today was Day 1 of Bike Camp.

My boy was, as is his style when trying something new, kinda nonplussed. Somewhat uninterested, but semi-curious. My baby don’t care ….

iCan Shine relies on volunteers, as each rider is paired with at least one individual who walks or runs alongside him or her to help with spills and direction, give encouragement, catch smiles.

Boo’s volunteers are a family: a mom and her two sons who are helping out for the week.

Within minutes, he was on the bike and taking off around the indoor track.

He’s got this, I thought.

I’m not going to lie. It has been a good but very, very emotionally challenging summer.

We have fallen off so many proverbial bikes and learned how to get back on.

But for today? This one day?

We’re riding so high.

You may also like:

in tandem (day 2 of iCan Shine Bike Camp)

cycles (day 3 and 4 of iCan Shine Bike Camp)

10 thoughts on “he’s got a ticket to ride

  1. Pingback: When You Reach the End of the Internet, Keep Calm and Go Fishing. (And Call Prince Charming.) | melissa firman

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  3. Danielle

    Melissa, my son is there too. It’s amazing what they have done in just two short days and the progress he has made. They have made it look so easy. All the times we struggled. When I signed him up for the camp this year, we didn’t even attempt to teach him. Like your son, his bike is too small and it has training wheels. Like your son we went to his wellness checkup a few weeks ago and had the discussion about eating healthier and exercising (we live in Beaver County, so I doubt the same doc). And like your son we had the dejected look of Oh I can’t ride a bike and what are these friends you speak of. It was a difficult appointment to leave. I feel so blessed for this week. And I am so thankful that your son got the opportunity to participate in the program. They truly are doing amazing things!
    Much love,
    Danielle

    1. Melissa Firman Post author

      Danielle, thanks so much for this! We didn’t even attempt to teach him this year either. What session is your son in? We’re in #3.

  4. Anne

    Loved your story and am reading it with tears in my eyes – it is our story too, right down to the last minute 1 spot left registration. Enjoy a week of I CAN. I know how many I can’t weeks you have probably had and you and your son both deserve this week of I CAN!

    1. Melissa Firman Post author

      Thanks so much, Anne. It’s so heartwarming to know how much others get this. 🙂

      1. Anne

        I can’t wait to see how you feel after the week is over – was truly magical for our family, and my son loves to ride now! We had tried and tried and tried but he’d gotten too big for us to be able to help him (at 12 he was 5’9 and 150!). We love this organization and hope we can volunteer for them next summer!

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  6. Lisa Weinstein

    Melissa, another beautiful post. You see, the moon and the stars aligned! The timing was right for the doctor to ask that question, which led to your call which led to the one open spot! And of course you KNOW that I LOVED the Beatles references!!!
    xoxo
    Lisa

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