He is barely tall enough to ride most of the rides at Legoland, but our mini-3-year-old, standing a shade shorter than 38 inches, took to his two-wheeler this week, with surprising results.
I had no idea he was ready for it. Our oldest son began riding a two-wheeler at nearly 6 years old and our 5-year-old daughter has had little desire to attempt such a thing. So, I wasn’t quick to make the developmental prediction that Carson was physically ready for such a milestone… after all, he just gave up his pacifier in May!
But Carson, while at a friend’s barbecue, convinced one of the dads there that he was ready to give it a go and off he rode down a tree-lined sidewalk on a bicycle much taller than he.
Since then, an animal has been unleashed. Carson went from an unsteady front wheel swagger that made all spectators gasp in despair to hopping curbs and begging us to let him loose on our two-foot bike ramp.
On Saturday, I spent nearly an hour running sprints in the middle of our street with the little dude briskly pedaling beside me. He spent much of his ride verbally stroking his ego, hollering to the neighbors, “I’m a little boy riding with no training wheels.” He elicited claps and hoots from our supportive neighbors.
The whole experience has amplified his coordination and his ego. But following our youngster’s hour-long neighborhood ride, it took our oldest son only a moment to pronounce the phrase that would haunt my daughter for following two days.
“Wow, Ashley, now you’re the only one in our family who can’t ride a two-wheeler.”
Ah, sibling rivalry…
When you’re a sibling, the rivalry seems so normal. You unintentionally fight for your parents’ attention and you compete physically. A good competition with your siblings is not only indomitable fun but also another way to determine in your child-like mind simply who’s “better.”
Child psychologists describe sibling rivalry or sibling competition as a child’s need for attention or recognition from his or her parents. As with everything, sibling rivalry can go to extremes, resonating itself for years to come. In some families it can be divisive and in others it can be a motivator, encouraging one to overcome an obstacle or skill they would have otherwise never attempted so readily.
But as a parent, sibling rivalry is not only frustrating, but oftentimes a bit heavy on the heart.
Ashley, a new kindergarten graduate who has gained accolades for her accomplishments in reading has had a hard time understanding how her 3-year-old baby brother, who can’t even write his ABCs, is riding circles around her hot-pink bike with training wheels.
It’s bruised her ego. At first sight of Carson cruising up and down the street, Ashley immediately asked for a turn, thinking it would be as easy as it looked. But a 5-year-old’s fears are a bit more discovered than a 3-year-old’s, so her natural inclination was to put her foot down when she climbed to a steady cruise. Start, stop, scream in frustration. Just as soon, she gave up.
We told Ashley how practice is the only way she will be able to overcome her fear and learn to steady a two-wheeler. We praised her efforts. We highlighted the many things she has done well with practice. And with each passing phrase, we were noticeably dismissed. But over a two-day span, her frustration was apparent in all that had nothing to do with her bicycle. She was simply, ticked off.
All the sweet words in the world could not persuade our little lady to practice. No words of encouragement seemed to work. Not even the locked away secret of how when she and her older brother were signed up for swim lessons at ages 3 and 4, it was she who mastered the first back float and glide. Even that didn’t help to motive her.
I was happy when, on the second day, she hopped back on her bike with training wheels. At least she was riding something. And then, when I found myself vacant of words of encouragement, a final motivator kicked in.
Carson, who was hopping curbs, jumping holes on dusty roads and making sharp turns on his two-wheeler rode up to Ashley skidded his brakes and said, “Someday you’ll be able to ride a two-wheeler when you’re big like me.”
The words stung like a bee. Ashley’s physical reaction was visible to all. She jumped off her training-wheeled bike and firmly demanded a turn on Carson’s bike. She pushed it up an incline and with all her strength, pedaled her little legs with furor and overcame the stifling issue that had been plaguing her for the previous two days.
She had taken off. She needed no adult to run along side her. No parent to push the back of the seat, steady her handlebars or praise her efforts.
It was the words of her taunting brothers that encouraged her to overcome what had become in her mind the impossible. The only thing that could influence her to jump back on that two-wheeler came from the very source of her frustration.
Her beaming face full of pride will be the quintessential reminder to me that sibling rivalry can have some perks, no matter how taut the sting.
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