I am bursting right now. With pride, not chocolate (though the bunny that remains pristine, whole and untouched in Kiddo's Easter basket has been calling to me quite loudly today). You see, today, for the first time ever, Kiddo did this:
Yep, she rode her bike without the training wheels.
I know you're thinking "What's the big, flippin' deal? Isn't she almost 7?! Of course she's riding her bike without training wheels!" Yes, she will be seven at the end of May. I know that most kids are riding without their training wheels way earlier than practically-seven-years-old. But for Kiddo, bike riding came with extra challenges.
Due to her SPD, Kiddo has always had issues with two of her senses in particular. Which two? The vestibular and proprioceptive senses. "Whaaaa?" I hear you ask, "Those aren't senses..." But yes, they are. They have to do with balance, where one's body parts are in relation to each other and in relation to everything around the body, and how much pressure/effort is needed by the muscles to achieve a certain task. This has always been a problematic area for Kiddo. When she was younger, before she was diagnosed, we just chalked it up to her being extraordinarily clumsy. Seriously, not a day would go by without her walking into a doorjamb or table or wall or trip on a stair or curb - something she was paying attention to and looking straight at as she was moving, yet still, KABOOM. Once she was diagnosed, it was an "a-ha!" moment as we finally had an explanation for the extraordinary levels of clumsiness, and I'm happy to say that in some areas, (like, for example, the walking into doorways) Kiddo has improved greatly with a few years of OT under her belt.
Still, bike riding just wasn't coming to her. Even with training wheels, she wobbled a lot and often crashed and fell. Her SPD was really making it difficult and frustrating for her, to the point that she eventually refused to even try to ride her bike. She preferred "scootering" - on a three-wheeled scooter from which she still has falls and crashes regularly thanks to the same issues that were preventing her from riding a bike - and it seemed like the day would never come that she would master bike riding. It isn't that Hubby and I haven't tried to get her going without the training wheels, mind you. We tried every trick suggested by well-meaning friends and relatives whose own, younger children were merrily pedaling rings around Kiddo. None of them worked for her, because her sensory system was unable to help her brain figure out how to balance on two wheels. Knowing how frustrated she was broke our hearts.
Here, in our new neighborhood, she has friends from school. Friends who ride their bikes past our house, who race their bikes up and down the streets, who invite her to join them. Motivation anew for her, but still, she was nervous and hesitant to try. Hubby did some research on the internet (actually, he was looking for a different program that Kiddo's PT and OT had mentioned in passing when I asked them for suggestions on how to help Kiddo master a two-wheeler) and found a system that seemed worth a try, so he decided to give it a go. He had Kiddo watch the explanatory video yesterday and she was super-excited to try this method out with Daddy after school today.
This system is called Pedal Magic and all I can say is that within 10 minutes of Hubby and Kiddo starting to use the system in the parking lot up the road, she was doing this:
I was at home, busily stripping wallpaper, when the phone rang. It was Kiddo, giddy and breathless with excitement, asking me to come up to the parking lot and watch. So I did, and I'm telling you, I could've started crying, I was so happy. Sometimes it's the little things, you know. When we got home, she was bubbling over and couldn't wait to call her grandparents to share the news. She was busily planning outings on her bike with friends as I tucked her into bed tonight.
Of course, she's going to need more practice at things like turning and stopping, but just the fact that she can maintain her balance on a bicycle unaided? That's huge.
Now I just wish the Bike Fairy would come and leave Hubby and me each a bike in our garage so we could go on family bike rides this summer. Sadly, every last cent of income that is above and beyond normal living expenses is slotted towards the neverending home renovations, so there will be no bikes for us this summer unless I can find a great deal on Craigslist or at a garage sale. I've been keeping my eyes peeled... You see, when I was a kid, we would go on family bike rides all the time in the good weather months. We'd spend entire afternoons riding our bikes, exploring our neighborhood or some other scenic spot. I have such fond memories of those outings, which started when we were too young to ride our own bikes. Dad built a "bicycle seat for two" child carrier for the back of his bike (I recall plywood and shag carpet remnants being primary components) so my sister and I could sit side-by-side on his bike, while our youngest sister rode in a more standard child carrier on Mom's bike. Eventually, we were all biking under our own steam, and we'd ride for miles, us kids zooming off ahead, then waiting for Mom and Dad to catch up. Good times, very good times. Now, the idea of doing that with Kiddo is so much closer to being a reality, despite the stumbling blocks her SPD threw in front of her bike tires. And this is why I am bragging about my kid riding without her training wheels. I hope you will indulge this proud mama! Yay, Kiddo!!!