My girls spent the whole of last weekend with my mom and stepdad. Over the course of two nights, they ate enough junk food for a whole herd of children, and didn't drink a single glass of water. They slept in the same room as Gramma and Grandpa (something I was never allowed to do as a child), and their every whim was basically catered to. Milly got her pancakes for breakfast and her Strawberry Shortcake Happy Meal, Rachael commandeered Gramma's laptop and had Grandpa Tommy haul his kids' outgrown scooter out of the basement for her to ride.
And both girls came home with brand new pink bicycles.
Rachael got her first tricycle at approximately one year of age, and we've been attempting to teach her to pedal ever since. The poor child - who has unfortunately inherited a double dose of clumsiness from her parents - just couldn't get the hang of making her feet go around in circles. She'd go forward a little and then back a little - which, of course, applies the brakes and makes everything stop. This has been the source of much parental frustration, and Rachael had eventually decided that she didn't want to learn to ride a bike anyway, so there.
Enter Grandpa Tommy. He knew that Milly would love riding a bike, and he was right. The child jumped right on like she was born on the thing and took off. He was more concerned that Rachael didn't know how to ride, though - and it was he (not my mom, as I originally believed) who bought their bikes.
It was also he who, perhaps not fully understanding that Rachael didn't even know the mechanics of pedaling, started pushing her down the long hill in front of their house and then let go. Rachael panicked, but had the presence of mind to aim for a neighbor's grass before the bike toppled over.
By the time I came to pick them up on Sunday afternoon, though, both girls were riding in large circles around the garage, which had been cleared of cars and motorcycle to make room for them to play. I was both shocked and thrilled that Rachael had finally - finally! - learned to pedal. Not only that, but she now thought that riding a bike was fun!
So we loaded the bikes into the back of my van and brought them home, where we promptly parked them in the living room to keep them safe from the big stinky dog. And there they sat, because it's been a kazillion degrees outside, with no chance of letting up anytime in the near future.
After much nagging from the girls ("Can we go to the park and ride bikes? Pleeeease? I want to go ride bikes! Bikes? Please, bikes?") and much mommy/daddy guilt over not taking them to ride bikes just because we wanted to die every time we walked out the door...we finally took them to the park to ride bikes yesterday.
And this is when I was reminded that pictures can, in fact, lie. Take the photo above. It looks like Rachael is having a great time whizzing along on her bike, doesn't it? Someday, someone (maybe me) will come across this picture tucked into a family photo album (if I ever get them caught up) and remember fondly their own childhood bike rides. The freedom of flying down the road, the wind in your hair. Bikes are great, aren't they? And aww, look at this - Rachael learned to ride when she was little too, and she clearly loved it!
Well, the truth is, there was much whining and complaining last night. For one thing, it was still a kazillion degrees outside - a fact that she took into no consideration whatsoever until we actually got out of the van at the park. For another thing, she leaned so heavily on one training wheel the whole time we were there that she simply couldn't go fast at all - slugs breezed by her with reckless abandon. It is harder to ride a bike slowly, so she got tired of trying in a hurry - she made maybe three laps around the parking area to Milly's 20+ laps. And it must stink to watch your baby sister lapping you over...and over...and over...
Milly is clearly more coordinated than her big sister. She already roller skates and rides a bike better than Rachael, and is more willing and graceful in their swim lessons. She's less fearful and less cautious, although still not exactly a daredevil (thank you, Lord!)
Rachael definitely notices, and it doesn't make her happy...but as I keep telling her, she has to WANT to do these things, and then work at them, before she'll ever be good at them.
Anywho. Back to my photo epiphany...pictures lie. Rachael seems to be enjoying riding in the above picture. All of them evoke mental images of pleasant childhood summer evenings - and thankfully, they always will. Eventually, the memories of dripping sweat in the hot sun while watching them ride their bikes will fade. I'll forget how irritating it was to have to tell Rachael over and over and over to "sit up straight" and "just keep pedaling" and "why are you stopping again?" and "just KEEP! PEDALING!"
Thank goodness for cameras, and the ability to freeze the precious moments of the years while my girls are small...and for the sugarcoating tendencies of the human mind, that will look at them again someday and only see the happy. Maybe Rachael will even find the first picture someday and think, "wow, look at me go...I was really leaving Milly in the dust!"