According to Parents magazine, you can raise a child who won’t give up. Which means that maybe I can, too.
Maybe I can. But maybe I can’t.
You see, in the moments after reading the article, in which they say to praise effort rather than results, to encourage them to keep trying, to remind them about how things that used to be hard for them are now easy, and to be a role model by showing them how to persevere even when things are hard, I broke just about every rule in the book . . . er, article.
It all started when I told Manchild he could ride his bike to Prospect Park.
The park is more than a mile from our apartment. The boy had never ridden farther than once around the block since he learned to ride at the beginning of February. My suggestion seemed like a good idea in the moment, but mostly because Manchild had buckled himself into the stroller seat that was meant for Squish, and Squish, who had just woken up from his nap, couldn’t deal. So I said something I regretted even as the words left my mouth: “Maybe you could ride your bike to the park.”
But my suggestion was met with an enthusiasm the boy generally reserves for things that start with “special” and end with “treat,” so I knew there was no going back. And so we hit the road: Manchild, helmeted, on his bike, Squish in the stroller which my sister graciously pushed while I spent the journey chasing Manchild on the downhills, telling him how hard it was going to be on the uphills, apologizing profusely to every person who happened to get in the way of his shaky steering (which was about every 3rd person on the sidewalk), and helping him get up and get going every time he crashed or came to a street — which was frequently.
By the time we got to the hill by the library, I was sure he’d had enough. I had. He’d crashed so many times, had yet to figure out the brakes, and was surely going to mow somebody down as he flew down the hill. So after one painful-looking run-in with a wall, I said, “You know, you could just walk your bike the rest of the way down the hill, Buddy, so you don’t crash anymore.”
To which he replied: “But I want to be the best rider of this kind [pedal] of bike ever, so I’m going to keep trying.”
And I thought to myself, Way to go, Mom. Way to encourage him to never give up. Lesson learned.
The lesson was learned for approximately 2 hours, until we left the park. I resumed my position at the rear of his bike, ready to give him the push-off he needed to get going. And then he said, “You know, Mom, if you always help me, you’re always going to have to help me.”
I recognized the truth of what he said, so I backed off. Tried to give him a few pointers on how to make it easier. And watched him try again and again and again without ever once getting frustrated or upset or discouraged. (He gets that from his dad.)
By the time we got home, he’d put nearly 4 miles on the bike, mastered the art of self-starting, learned to steer around pedestrians, and, well, we’re still working on the brakes, but I’m pretty sure he’s well on his way to becoming the best rider of that kind of bike in the whole world and he’s not going to let anything stop him.
Not brakes. And certainly not me.