Today, my son reached an important milestone in a child's life, he rode his bicycle without the training wheels on. It was timed nicely, as he celebrated his seventh birthday yesterday.
Twice before in the last week or so I had taken him to the parking lot of his elementary school to practice riding without the training wheels in a relatively safe area. He was very nervous and wobbled from side to side as he pedalled. When he would pick up enough speed, I would let go of the bottom of his seat and for a few seconds he was riding on his own. But then he would look back and panic when he realized I had let go of him, and his feet would come off the pedals and scrape the pavement.
"Don't let go Daddy!" he would plead to me.
"But that defeats the whole reason we're here," I replied. "You were riding the bike on your own. You can do it."
On the second practice run, I tried a different tactic: deception. When he was pedalling, I would let go of the seat but I kept my hand close enough so that my son thought I was still holding on. Still, his performance on the second day was not noticeably better than the first.
This morning I took him to the school again for a third practice. After a few shaky starts, he got to a point where I felt confident enough to let go and then I just stood there and watched as he kept on going. After about ten seconds, he stopped as he realized I was no longer there.
"Why did you let go?" he asked me.
"Because you don't need me to hold on anymore. You were riding on your own. You can do it!" I exclaimed. I think it finally sunk in for him that he really knew how to ride his bicycle without the training wheels and that it gave a boost to his confidence.
After a couple of more times of holding on to get him started, I told him to start pedalling on his own. He had some trouble with this and had many false starts, but he started to get it and was eventually riding completely on his own. Then it was time to go home and share the good news with his mom.