For children, that delicious stretch of endless sunny days filled with adventure and glee.
Okay, maybe not all the time. Most of the time it seems to be ceaseless ennui smeared with thick clots of slack-jawed television viewing. One of the teenagers has practically worn her favorite spot on the couch clean through to the springs.
It’s rained a lot. While the rest of the country has been sweltering under the “Heat Dome” (something we Oregonians have heard of but haven’t experienced; we view it with a detached fascination, like what most people feel when they see a moon rock behind glass), we here in the great Pacific Northwest have been pelted with rain beyond even what we consider normal for the year.
The good news is that my water bill is way down. I’ve only had to water the lawn once this year. And we only turned the air conditioner on once this year too: yesterday afternoon.
Because yesterday, it got above 80. Heavens!
And yesterday, Michael’s mommy and I decided that it was high time Michael got up on his bicycle and practiced riding. I took off his training wheels last year, and informed him that he’d be riding on two wheels before the summer is up, even if it killed us both. And of course I mean that figuratively.
In order to make things a little easier on him, we decided to haul him up to one of the cul-de-sacs toward the top of the hill in our neighborhood, since our own street is too steep and too busy for a wobbly little boy to get any good practice on.
Lucky us, when we got there, who should drive by but the mother of one of Michael’s kindergarten buddies. With said buddy riding in the back seat. She leaned her head out and shouted a greeting, and after pulling into her driveway hurried her little boy into the garage to fetch his own bike.
So for the next half hour, it was bicycle training day for Michael and his friend.
“The only thing J can’t seem to figure out is how to get back up on his bike after he rides a little. I always have to help him on,” Michael’s friend’s mother said to us, watching the little guy pedal down the street.
“The curb! Have him bring his bike over to the curb and stand on that, then lift his leg over and push off. It always worked for me,” I said.
“That’s a great idea!” She hurried over to J to show him this new technique. Meanwhile, I plopped Michael on his seat for the thousandth time.
“Okay, little man. Let’s try for ten seconds this time.”
“Daddy… I’m too heavy for this. I scraped my leg. I’ll never get this.”
“Don’t say that. Look, J is up and riding just fine! If he can do it, so can you. Just find your balance.”
“I don’t have any balance.”
“Yes you do. I saw you pull yourself back upright before you crashed last time, so I know you can do it.”
I tried to be as encouraging as I could as I ran along side him and got him up to speed.
“Okay, sport. I’m going to let go. It’s all you!” I let him go, and he pedaled briefly, got scared, braked and instantly crashed.
“See? I can’t do it!” he cried.
“Yes, you can. You just have to not be scared of it, and don’t stop pedaling. When you stop, you fall. You can’t stay balanced if you stop. Just don’t be afraid.”
We tried it once more. I ran along side him and pushed him forward. He pedaled… and stayed up!
Seven, eight, nine, ten… he was doing it! Twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen seconds of riding on his own!
Then he rammed the curb at the end of the cul-de-sac.
“You did it! You rode! You can do it!”
“Yeah! I’m going to go by mommy now…” and he turned his bike around, got up and had me roll him past his mother, who was getting the whole thing on video.
He didn’t last but nine seconds this time… but he knows he can do it. He’s past the tipping point; it’ll just be a matter of a few more practices, hopefully with J, to get him really riding strong.
It’ll be then that he’ll discover the joy and freedom of riding his bike, going where the wind takes him (with all safety in mind, of course).
His friend came running over to congratulate him on staying up, then invited him over to play. Michael gave us a look and we said yes, then he and J dashed across the street and into his house. His mom exchanged phone numbers with us, and after a brief discussion about the impromptu playdate, my wife and I bid them goodbye and walked on down the street and around the corner to our own house.
Michael was on his first playdate, after having really ridden his two-wheeler for the first time.
Summer has officially begun for one little boy.