Like riding a bike.

I did not realize until recently how strongly being “athletic” is part of my self-image. I played volleyball and basketball in junior high school, then switched to a new school and just volleyball my sophomore year. (See also: what happens when you stop growing at 12 years old and everyone else just keeps getting taller.) I wasn’t a college-level prospect, but I did play a little intramural vball when I lived on campus. After I graduated, I started going to the gym and did step aerobics and yoga and pilates and a short stint with a trainer. After Mini was born, I started running. Mostly 5ks, some trail running, and then a half-marathon last summer.

Now, my children have decided that they want to learn to ride bicycles. I had to get a new one for myself since I haven’t ridden one since I learned how to drive. Besides a little saddle-soreness and a frisson of “am I too old for this?!?”, it’s been a text-book case of why “it’s like riding a bike” is such a strong figure of speech. I’m still getting a feel for the handbrakes, but otherwise my shiny new aqua pearl cruiser has been full of win.

Dem kids, tho’.

I did *not* realize how strongly it would affect me that my kids do not seem to possess my natural? practiced? athletic prowess. I watch them and I can SEE what they are doing wrong, but I cannot put it into words they understand to help them course correct. I keep just saying “Watch me, do it like this.” because physically I KNOW how the movement happens, I KNOW how to make my body just DO the thing I want them to do. But I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it. And it makes me so agitated that this thing that is so easy, so natural for me to do — they just can’t do it. Like, I was pedaling behind Mini, and he’s not square on his seat and he’s pushing too hard with his right leg and leaning his upper body to the left to try to balance it out. I could tell he was about to fall over to the right (and he did), but I couldn’t explain to him why. So he’s frustrated and I’m irritated and we both just go home.

I don’t know how to explain not to fight against the physics of the motion, to move *with* the weight and momentum, to let their bodies flex and rotate and curve instead of holding rigid, to relax in the movement. To trust that the earth beneath their feet will hold them up and be there to catch them when they fall, as long as they roll with the path and don’t fight against it.

I’m scared that this is going to be a giant flashing neon metaphor for my parenting as they get older and I have to help them find their way in the world instead of carrying them through it myself.


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