Learning to Ride

I am feeling immensely satisfied with myself. I have taught my daughter one of life’s most valuable skills. The skill you really do never forget. She has learnt to ride her bike.

I vividly remember it was no easy task to teach me to ride on two wheels. It felt like I picked up driving quicker! My Dad and I were out every weekend without fail with his piece of wooden post attached to my saddle to keep me stable. I didn’t need to cry ‘don’t let go’ because as soon as he did, I toppled. I must have been aged eight or nine when I finally got it and I loved the bike rides we could go on after that. Back in those rose-tinted days when the country roads seemed much quieter than they do now. When we would leave the house on our bikes after breakfast and not be back till tea.

I don’t cycle regularly now – I even survived three years at Oxford University without getting back on a bike – but whenever I have had the chance to ride on holidays, from San Francisco to Padstow, I have always enjoyed the freedom and the thrill of still being able to do it irrespective of the years that have passed. I always say a silent thank you to my Dad in those moments.

Last summer when I tried to teach my daughter how to ride her bike without stabilisers, it looked like it would be a similar uphill battle. We both got frustrated as she struggled to balance and I struggled to show anywhere near the amount of patience my father had shown me. So I bought her a balance bike. She ‘strode’ that bike to school every day through summer to autumn and come the winter she was ready for a big girl bike.

I proudly videoed her cycling around the playground thinking to myself how great it was she had this skill for life, just as I did. But in that moment I also realised that by learning to ride we both had learnt something far more than just how to pedal. We had learnt to persevere. We had learnt not to give up when tasks were hard. We had discovered the reward of perseverance in the joy we both had in our new skill.

And I had learnt something more from my dear Dad. I had learnt how to patiently support someone in their learning. Every day my little girl strode her bike to school and every day I pushed it home, much to the amusement of on-lookers! I gave no pressure after that first fateful attempt and allowed her to learn in her own time and tell me when she was ready. I did not dutifully hold onto a post as my father patiently did; but my support was always there and she knew it.

Back in the 1980s my body learnt to ride a bike while my head learnt to persevere with a new skill even when it got hard. And, perhaps most importantly, my heart learnt to patiently support others to learn. Without doubt, three of life’s most valuable lessons. Thank you Dad.