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Easy Rider: A Christmas Tale
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Posted 11 December 2008 - 07:57 PM
By Joseph Kelly
I can still vividly remember my first bike. It was a golden Malvern Star with a dragster seat and sissy bar. I thought it was the coolest piece of equipment I’d ever seen. Since getting that first bike at Christmas before my fourth birthday, until I finished high school some fifteen years later, I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t ride a bike. But it appears as though a love of bike riding hasn’t passed through the genes.
A few Christmases ago, when Maisie was about four, Santa delivered her a bike straight off Cinderella’s parking lot. It had pink highlights, pink streamers screaming from the handlebars and a basket on the front emblazoned with hand painted fairies. Bolted onto the back wheel were two pink training wheels that I figured we’d be rid of in no time, once Maisie got the grasp of basic cycling mechanics. All Christmas day Maisie wouldn’t get off her bike – it looked like the start of a long and beautiful relationship. Until Boxing Day.
My memories of bike riding are only getting rosier as I get older, but I know for a fact that having a bike as a kid gave me a sense of freedom and confidence that has since been unmatched. I don’t think there was a single corner of the town I grew up in that I didn’t reach with my trusty Malvern Star. And I loved the autonomy it gave me in deciding where I would go and when I’d head back home. At four years of age I felt like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider!
So I was very keen to see Maisie start down the path of discovery that having your own transport allows. I was so keen that on Boxing Day I decided to teach her, in one afternoon, all the cycling skills she would need to last her a life time. The pinnacle of this plan was to launch Maisie down a hill and leave her in charge of regulating her speed while also navigating her direction and suppressing her fear. How could anything go wrong?
As soon as we got to the top of the hill and Maisie looked down she began to get worried. “You won’t let go will you daddy?” was all she kept nervously asking me. I explained to Maisie that I would run alongside the bike while she braked and steered and I would be there if anything went wrong. There were two things I didn’t count on: first, a four-year-old on a bike goes very, very fast down hill and secondly, panicked four-year olds do not act calmly and rationally when they find themselves on a run-away bicycle.
The results are, in hindsight, disturbingly predictable. Maisie wasn’t hurt, but her confidence was battered and she had a few “trust issues” with her dad that she needed to workshop on the long walk home. While we were able to iron out our relationship pretty quickly, Maisie’s relationship with her bike has taken a lot longer to mend. For nearly two years now her bike has only seen the outside of the shed a handful of times.
This Christmas, though, we are both two years older. For my part I like to think that I’m more patient and more prepared to let my girls discover things at their own pace. And two years on, Maisie is starting to see the attraction of a bit of independence and has shown some interest in her bike. So, with no pressure from me, Maisie has asked for her bike to come down to the beach with us for the summer. And whether she takes to the bike or not isn’t important. Because on the bike or off, I’m pretty happy for Maisie to be Dennis Hopper (complete with training wheels) to my Peter Fonda.
This is my last blog for this year. Thank you all for your wonderful contribution and feedback throughout the year. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Christmas and New Year and I'll see you all in 2009.
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