Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Bonding Moment

I experienced an incredible connection with my son the other day. And it arose out of one of our most frustrating moments.

With my son enrolled in a bicycle riding class this summer and making more of an effort to learn to ride, I took him out for more practice over the weekend.

After my last exhausting practice session with Kai, I realized that balance was the biggest issue with his riding. I was doing all the work of keeping him on the bike. He did not try to adjust his body to maintain his balance and he depended on me to keep him upright. I thought that as long as I held onto the bike as he pedaled, he would never really learn how to balance himself properly.

And so, this time, I decided to try a different technique.

This method employs a modified bicycle with no pedals on it. The idea is that the child sits on the bike with his feet on the ground, and then moves by pushing with his feet. Once he becomes adept at scooting along, he is told to pick up his feet and coast. When scooting and coasting are mastered, the child can learn turning and steering.

Because the child can put his feet down at any time, the risk of falling is minimal. And when he masters scooting, coasting, and turning on this modified bicycle, he is ready to ride with pedals.

I had Kai get on a small, modified bike that we got from a friend just for this purpose. Our friend successfully taught her two kids to ride using this method.

Kai took just a few steps with the bike and immediately got frustrated. He had a hard time moving along.

From what I could tell, his balance was so bad that even with his feet on the ground, his bike leaned to one side and made movement and steering difficult.

I told him to sit straight. He kept leaning to the left.

I advised him to take slow steps. He was angry and took quick steps. That only made it more difficult for him.

I tried to encourage him to keep stepping. He kept stopping.

I pointed out a landmark, just a short distance away, and told him we would turn around to go home from that point. He threw down his bike and said he wanted to quit now.

I was surprised at how hard this seemingly simple action was for him. And I was frustrated with his frustration.

I told him sternly that he would not quit. I acknowledged that this was difficult for him but tried to explain the importance of not giving up. I don’t know how much of that he understood.

When he threw down his helmet and started to walk home, I resorted to making a threat. I told him that I would take away his penny collection if he did not keep trying.

And that really angered him. He spit at me. When his spit didn’t reach me, he walked up right next to me and spit again. I told him that he shouldn’t spit at people and pushed him away.

When Kai is mad, he tells me that I am not his dad anymore. And that is what he shouted to me then. He said that Mom would find him a new one. I told him that it didn’t work that way; I was his dad and he was stuck with me.

Though he was mad, he got back on the bike and stepped the short distance that I originally wanted him to. I gave him props for completing the activity, though I wasn’t feeling too happy about the whole thing.

Once we got home, we both calmed down and had a nice evening.

But I wanted to reflect with him on how things had gone that afternoon.

At bedtime, after I turned out the lights and tucked him in, I told him that I was hurt that he spit at me and that he said that he didn’t want me to be his dad anymore. He started to cry.

I told him that his mom and I do everything we do because we love him and want him to grow up to have a good life. I said that I know that I can be tough on him and that I understood how hard it was for him to ride the bike, but that I didn’t want him to quit because I want him to develop good habits so that he can grow up to be a happy young man.

By this time, he was really crying hard. He told me that he was sorry, and he seemed really sincere about it. It was one of the few times I had seen true sadness and regret from him.

I told him how much I loved him, and we said good night.

Shortly after I left his room, he came out and said that he couldn’t go to sleep until he wrote me a letter telling me how sorry he was. I told him that he didn’t need to write me a letter, but that I would take a big hug.

We hugged a good long time. I told him how happy and proud I am to have him as my son. We both said, “I love you” several times.

The psychologist who works with Kai has told us that he is afraid to have sad emotions and often gets angry or acts silly to hide his true feelings. On this night, he faced his emotions. And because of that, we connected.

I never will forget that feeling.

Now I just need to find a way to help him with his balance on the bike.


  1. This article was the most moving I had read. What a great event for you two. Kai is really starting to mature...and, I really have to say this again...Wow...what a great story!

  2. Thank you. It was a moment I will never forget.


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