Last year I took my daughter and a friend to the beach. As it is every beach vacation (or camping trip for that matter) we wonder and worry about my girl’s biking ability.
She is unable to ride a (two-wheeler without training wheels) bike because of two visions disorders which cause balance and depth perception issues. Her eyes rotate slowly right to left, so focusing quickly – reaction time – is an issue. The more recent diagnosed condition (torsion) means her eyes to tilt quickly on both sides of her eyes, randomly. So basically, since she’s been born she’s seen the world with little random movements (and both eyes tilt at different times) and she can’t turn her head and focus on what she wants to at any given time quickly. She needs a second or two.
No matter how many times we’ve tried, we’ve not been able to help her with her confidence on a bike enough to stick with it to learn, or she is unable to learn. Which she hates now that she is older. She thinks and knows that people are watching her, judging her. Early in the year we bought a new bike for her (no training wheels) in the hopes to get her to a bike riding camp. She simply does not want training wheels anymore, making it more difficult to learn how to ride and I can’t say I blame her.
While at the beach, I noticed that the bike rental store at the beach had three-wheeled adult bikes and found out they were $40 for the week and well, we got the last one. The yellow Atlas with the Bike Basket of All Baskets Ever Made and Used on Any Bike, Ever was it! I was thankful for the basket because it made my daughter warm up to the idea of the three-wheeled bike. She did wonder what people would think of her because that is what 11-year-olds do, you know, they think about what everyone will think of them no matter what they are doing.
My daughter never rode a bike independently anywhere. If she did ride in the past, she was with us parents and on a bike with training wheels but even with those trainers it felt too unbalanced for her to truly enjoy the experience of bike riding and she would cut the time on it short. She never felt the freedom of riding.
She never knew what she was missing while not bike riding.
You know that freedom, right? The freedom of leaving, to ride away from wherever you are with your own strength moving your own legs propelling you. The breeze you feel on your face is a bonus to the ride away from wherever and the ride to whatever. My girl had never experienced that until she accepted, with caution, the idea of riding a three-wheeled bike. Her friend encouraged her to do it and that helped greatly.
She and her friend rode bikes several times a day after she cautiously accepted the yellow trike-looking bike not understanding yet how it would make her feel.
It made her feel free.
It made her feel proud.
It made her feel confident.
It made her feel happy.
It made her feel like she was “normal.”
This past fall we got her the bike for her birthday after questioning one last time if she wanted to work towards two-wheel biking. Nope. She was done with that. So we got the bike and she hadn’t yet had a chance to ride. Last week I had to strongly encourage her to ride it while I walked to a strip mall to pick up a few things. She didn’t want because, “People will make fun of me because it’s not a normal bike.” After reminding her about how she felt and the freedom she had and how not her friend nor any stranger at the beach made fun of her, she reluctantly agreed. She whole-heartedly agreed when I said I would get her lunch at Panera (chicken noddle bread bowl, if you must know).
We went the two miles and while she was a little nervous, she got over it quickly. Over the course of her ride (my walk) and lunch and shopping, no less than 20 people commented on how the bike is awesome. By the end of our shopping excursion, she wanted to sit on it outside, proudly, might I add.
You know what? She no longer cared what people thought and after saving the (many) dollars to buy it for her for her, we know that we’ve spent a lot more on less important things.
I would pay double to see that joy again and again.
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