It is a summer ritual. We trim up the backyard, start regularly scooping up the doogie doo, hose out the long-suffering kid-pool, buy a Costco-sized (yes, I use 'Costco' as a verb) bottle of sunscreen that gets lost by July 4th, and purchase Isaac a new, bigger bike to fit his new, bigger frame. Does the helmet still fit (always 'no' - he is wearing an adult sized one now. Thank god I didn't have to push that noggin through my nether-regions when he was born)? Does it come with training wheels? Good.
And then the bike rusts, unused and unloved in the backyard. To be fare, it has good company - my big pink cruiser sits beside it, similarly avoided. My husbands street bike taunts it from near the gate. Screw you, you yellow Bike Gallery Snob! What even makes this more tragic is that I live 4 blocks from a major bike highway (N. Williams) in one of the most bike-obsessed cities in the U.S. I also don't hike and will only camp if there is a working toilet within 50 yards, so yeah, I am a BAAADDD (native) Oregonian.
Anyway, we do try to get him on the bike with the training wheels. But he just hates it. He freaks out in the most Isaac-of-ways, usually involving screeching "I'm going to die!" if you don't hold on the the handlebars and walk (never have to run) alongside him. And note, this is WITH the training wheels. We would pull it out once a day for a week, get burned out and maybe bring it out once a week, and then by July 15th, it was locked up until we donated it to GoodWill. Until Spring bloomed in our hearts, and with renewed vigor, we bought the next one.
So what was wrong? Well, his balance was horrid, a combination of anxiety and nature. This kid crashes into the living room walls, which have not moved in 110 years and are still in the same location as when he moved in at 5 days old. He has issues paying attention at times, especially when trying to combat his anxiety, and is notorious for not looking where he is going. He further more was very stiff in his hips, and had a hard time pushing the pedals. We did not give up, but when faced with kid who rises to challenges each and every day, it became to hard to push one more in his face.
Last summer we were told about the Lose the Training Wheels Camp, a national program that travels every summer teaching kids, NT and not, how to ride a two-wheeler. We were too late for Summer 2010, but I jumped on it this year and we signed up for the 5 day bike camp for kids with disabilities. It sold out fast.
The camp started this week, Monday. Isaac was hesitant, telling me over and over that he "wasn't ready". We signed in at Jefferson HS where the camp was located this summer, put his name tag on, and had a snack and quiet time before going in. Still, he wasn't ready. Then his spotter came out to introduce himself, and Isaac was not ready, but dutifully followed Elliot into the gymnasium. The door was closed, and that was it.
The program is as such: there are 4-8 kids per session, 5 sessions a day, with 2-3 spotters per rider. Each session is 75 minutes long. They start out on special bikes fitted with rollers for a back wheel, which is slowly raised throughout the first few days. If the riders need additional help, they then move to a tandem bike with their spotters, and then to a two wheeler with a special handle before hopping on their own bikes and moving outside to a runners track (if you want to see it in action, go to YouTube and put in "lose the training wheels" - there are tons of videos of previous camps and campers). They are also taught the basics of safety, braking, self-starting, and staying focused. There is a success rate of 80%. I guessed our success rate was more like 70%. Could they even get him on the bike? I couldn't.
Day one he emerges with a big smile. "I did it mom, I was GREAT!". Oh joy, he had fun, which was so much of the battle for us. Now Isaac is quite the politician, and even when he HATES something, he will say he loved it, but then not want to do it again. But the next morning he put on his camp t-shirt and went back in the gymnasium with a smile on his face.
Day two - he improved. They gave me his daily update, and balance and focus were still on his to-do list, but so was his progression to a higher and higher roller. And more enthusiasm. My sweaty and happy boy received his daily prize (Day 2 was an REI water bottle), and talked about coming back on Day 3 and trying it on two wheels for the first time.
Day 3, and 15 minutes after I sat down to amuse Olivia, I was told to gather my things and head outside to the track with my camera. And sure enough, there was my baby on two wheels with his spotter running alongside him, no roller, no training wheels, and laughing with joy. Day 3, and he was doing it!!! Sappy sissy that I am, I cried a bit. Quietly and quickly.
Bike First is very strict towards the parents and very positive towards the child. The list of rules the parents have to follow to attain (and maintain) success is pretty long. I will go into that more in a future post. But so far, I think it is all worth it. The simple joy of the wind in his face, doing something so average as riding his bike. It is so worth it.