Maxi-Taxi decided that it was time he starting riding his bike without training wheels.
I thought: "Hallelujah, Mr Six Year Old. It's a miracle!"
I said: "What a good idea!"
The session, which began with LOML patiently trying to teach him balance, rapidly went from excitement that the training wheels were off, to horror that he had to actually do something in order to stay upright, to "I'm never riding my bike again" defeat. Two times up a straight path without training wheels will do that to a boy.
He storms off across the park and flops onto a picnic table. Face like thunder.
My attempts to softly cajole him off the bench and back on the bike were met with comments such as "It's stupid", "I can't", "It's too hard", "I'm stupid", "You're stupid", "I hate my bike". My approach to this sort of negative talk has always been to say things like"Don't say 'I can't', say 'I'll try'" (and, of course, "We don't use words like stupid"!) and gently, gently (lest I break their fragile self-esteem cocoon) ease the child back to the task at hand. If all attempts to guide them back failed, I tended to give them a pep talk around "Tomorrow is a brand new day and you will feel better about trying again then" and babbling on about all the ways we'll make it fun.
Today, however, I had learned of a new approach.
Enter the Chinese mother.
"Max!" I said sternly. "I won't listen to you talk about yourself that way. It's not true and I won't have it. Now get yourself over here and get on your bike."
"Max, I'm not going anywhere. I know you can do this so I'm going to stay right here next to your bike for as long as it takes."
"You're not going anywhere either. We're staying here until you get back on the bike. You might not get your balance and ride today, but you're at least going to try. I know you can do this, so I'm prepared to wait."
"I'll be right here, Max. I'm happy to sleep under the stars tonight with your bike as a pillow."
Five minutes pass.
"I'll be right here, Max. Setting up my tent."
Five minutes pass.
"Waiting for you, Max."
"Grrrrrrowwwwl!! OKAY THEN!" A small boy stomps his way across the park and collapses next to the bike. "I'm not getting on."
"It's not okay to give up. I know you can do this if you just keep trying." He gets on.
LOML starts to guide him, he pedals and gets a rhythm going, suddenly I hear the shout, "He's doing it!".
"I'm doing it!"
His face is alive with freedom and achievement as he pushes on for five pedals, six, seven... I go nuts with excitement - he's actually doing it!
He does two more times up and down the straight. LOML holds him and then lets go. Max pushes, he swooshes, he flies. Falls off the second time. Calls it a day. But he's done it, he's actually done it.
Thank you, oh thank you, Chinese Mother.
[Image by Sherry at Corporate America Runaway]