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January 12, 2009

Getting Up Eight

“Fall seven times, get up eight.”
- Japanese proverb

I’ve been laboring a bit over the past couple of weeks to get back into the swing of this training business.

I know that gradually, things will get easier – but for now, I still struggle to drag myself out of bed in the early mornings, I’m reluctant to set aside more than a couple of hours for my weekend runs, and I dread trying to hang with a group of faster runners on a weekly 12-mile trail workout (which, now that I mention it, happens to be tomorrow. Ugh.). Right now, I just need to hang tough and know that my body will figure out the details in due time.

On a related note, I went bike riding with my youngest daughter last weekend.

She turned five last fall, and ever since then, she’s been bugging me on a nearly weekly basis to strip the training wheels off of her bike so she can ride on two wheels, like her brother and sister did when they were five. Last Saturday, she finally got her wish.

My teaching method for riding a two-wheeler is somewhat unorthodox (and in my humble opinion, kind of cool): I strap on a pair of rollerblades, and ride behind the bike, steadying it with one hand under the seat while my daughter pedals. When she starts balancing a little better, I gradually ease my grip until she’s riding without assistance. It’s a pretty decent method of providing just enough correction to avoid multiple knee-scraping crashes.

The process isn’t easy, though. My daughter and I spent the better part of an hour swerving all over the playground, with the bike tipping erratically to either side as she leaned too far in one direction or turned the handlebars excessively in the other. She occasionally got her legs tangled in the pedals, took a few scrapes from the chain, and picked herself off the asphalt far more times than she anticipated.

It was after one such instance, when she got up a little more slowly than usual, that I suggested we take a short break. That’s where we had the following exchanges:

Daughter: This is really hard.

Me: Yeah. It’s like this for everybody. It gets easier, though.

Daughter: [Brother and sister] crashed a lot too, right?

Me: Yup. That’s the way it works – you fall a lot of times, but you just keep trying, and eventually you learn how to do it.


Daughter: OK.


And then, about five seconds later …


Daughter: Dad?

Me: What?

Daughter: Are you ready to try again?

Me: You bet.


I can’t say that she made remarkable progress after that – but by the end of the day, she had a few brief rides without my hand on the seat, and that was enough to keep her encouraged to try again another day.

Resiliency, focus, determination – these qualities are in ample supply with most 5-year-olds; so why is it so hard to find those same characteristics in ourselves after we become adults? My daughter struggled with learning a two-wheeler, but it’s a complete no-brainer that she’s going to hang tough for a while and let her body figure out the details in due time. All I need to do is follow her example for a few weeks, and things will work out fine for me as well.

Sometimes when I’m trying to teach my kids something, I stop and wonder which of us is actually the one who needs the lesson. More often than I’d like to admit, it’s pretty much a coin flip in that regard.

12 comments:

Annette 1/12/09, 12:35 PM  

I hear you! I'd been trying to get back in the groove for a couple of months and I just couldn't drag myself out of bed. I finally realized that I didn't have to run early in the morning. I do much better later in the day. So, I think I'm finally back on the horse. You'll find your groove soon enough - even if it takes a few falls in the meantime. :)

Deene 1/12/09, 1:26 PM  

best wishes to your daughter on getting the hang of cycling.

Rainmaker 1/12/09, 1:29 PM  

Cool story.

The question (and part that seems omitted) is how many times you fell in the process. Cause that would be YouTube worthy. ;)

Good luck to the daughter!

My Life & Running 1/12/09, 2:24 PM  

..resiliency, focus, determination... you put to words something I needed to hear. As always, beautiful post Donald.

momo 1/12/09, 4:07 PM  

its just one step in front of the other, right? not rocket science, although, believe me - it sure feels like that for me lately. just follow your daughter's lead.

oh, and we taught our kids to ride their first bikes on the grass... much softer surface for all that falling they did!

Backofpack 1/12/09, 4:25 PM  

Donald,
The cool part of the story is a Dad that recognizes his child has something to teach him. That's something most adults don't grasp!

Congrats to the two-wheeled wonder, and to you for getting back to it.

21stCenturyMom 1/12/09, 6:23 PM  

Not all kids have that sort of resiliancy and determination. My daughter fell off her bike and took weeks to get up the nerve to get back on. She's her Dad's girl and you, too will get your running mojo back soon - probably right around when the weather warms up a bit and it gets light a little bit earlier.

21stCenturyMom 1/12/09, 6:24 PM  

By "she" I meant your daughter, not mine.

triguyjt 1/12/09, 7:11 PM  

its cool how you know you can learn from her...its not a one way street

David Ray 1/13/09, 6:30 AM  

We took the pedals off the bike and let the kids push it along to get the hang of balancing. When they could balance well, the pedals went back on.

Works okay as long as the hills are mild. :)

Dave 1/13/09, 3:02 PM  

I am going through that exact same thing with my 5 year old daughter. She got a pink freestyle bike for Christmas. The problem I have is that my son spoiled me. At 5 years old, he literally climbed on a bike with no training wheels and rode off. Never fell...No Joke...I didn't even help him get on the freaking bike...He didn't get that coordination from me.:)

mindy 1/15/09, 4:42 PM  

Great post Donald. I have been feeling the same training challenge, but things are looking up. It's 3 degrees here right now if that makes you feel any better!

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