On Balance Bikes and Letting Go

Hannah started begging for a bicycle when she was two years old. We even dragged her out of REI at one point as she was screaming, “I want a bike! I want a bike!” Not long after, we got her a Strider balance bike, and she was absolutely delighted.

little bike

Balance bikes do not have pedals, and the idea is that very young children can propel themselves with their feet and then gradually develop balance as they grow in confidence. Then they could skip training wheels later and go straight to a regular bicycle. We had many great years with Hannah on the balance bike, lots of miles on trails with friends, but she never seemed to balance much.

After three years with the Strider, she had completely outgrown it, so we got her a small bike with training wheels. She rode this for a couple months then was begging for us to take her training wheels off. We didn’t as we were in no big hurry to tackle the next step.

One day, we were playing outside, and she got on a neighbor boy’s bike. A regular bike, no training wheels. As she hopped on, I was yelling, “Get off that bike! What do you think you’re doing?! Hannah, YOU CAN’T… Oh, I guess you can… Huh… Yay, Hannah! Watch out for cars!”

big bike

She didn’t fall off, she didn’t get scared, she just rode along on two wheels. I was stunned.

Looking back, I don’t know why this was so surprising. We’d given her the balance bike and taught her how to pedal. She had the skills she needed.

I’m sure this will happen again in parenting, and I don’t want to be so surprised next time. If we equip our children with the skills for a milestone, why are we stunned when they move forward with confidence to tackle it?

If we’re doing our jobs, this should happen a lot. Our kids should be equipped with responsibility, independence, creativity, compassion, self-control, and a heart for justice. These skills will enable them to take on a lot in the world, and we need to let them. Often, parents seem to either lack the vision for training their children or lack the willingness to let them practice their skills independently. So I’m moving forward with more intentionality and a keener eye for signs of readiness.

Take off the training wheels! Let them develop balance! And then cheer for the successes and support them through falls, it’s all part of letting go.

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