I raised both arms and sang "We Are the Champions" for her. But my feeling was only part pride. The other part was relief.
See, Nutmeg asked to have her training wheels off more than a year ago, right after the end of kindergarten. She tried riding without the training wheels, found it difficult, and has subsequently refused to try riding her bike outside a few isolated occasions.
Usually, I didn't press it. Because we're not supposed to force our children to do things, right?
But today, it was a beautiful September afternoon, and as we pulled the car into the driveway, i said, "Kids, it's a perfect day to grab these bikes and ride."
Toth and Pebbles were all for it, but Nutmeg, as always, said, "No thanks."
She wanted to go into the house and read instead.
For some reason, today, I put my foot down. "Nutmeg, there will not be that many more nice days before winter. Get your bike and get out front."
She pouted, but she dragged her bike out there. A few minutes later, one of the neighbor kids joined them with her bike. Her training-wheels-free 2 wheeler. This was a 6-year-old neighbor.
Then, a 5-year-old neighbor joined them, riding his training-wheels-free 2-wheeler.
I didn't see exactly when Nutmeg turned from sulking to earnestly trying, but it happen. She pushed herself up and down, peddling, veering off to the side, falling and getting back up.
It really didn't take long before she was smoothly gliding up and down the block, and even stopping with confidence. Maybe half an hour.
I didn't even tell her that one of the neighborhood dads told me, while we were watching the kids ride, that his 4-year-old had recently gotten his training wheels off. No sense rubbing it in.
Once I saw how happy she had made herself with that little bit of effort, I started thinking. She could have been enjoying bike rides all summer. She had let that tiny obstacle shut her out of bike riding for too long.
Should I have let her let that happen? Or should I have been more insistent a year ago that she get out there and ride that bike?
I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother this summer, and while I agree with most of "normal" America that browbeating and pushing your children constantly is not the way to go, the book still made me think. The Tiger Mother's basic premise for why she pushes her children to practice their musical instruments for hours every day goes like this: Nothing is really fun until you are good at it. Children never want to work hard at first. Therefore without a loving parent there to override their preferences, children are denied the joy of mastering a skill.
I have to admit that, watching Nutmeg's joy -- she literally said, "I am so happy!" I can see where the Tiger Lady is coming from.
So do I get in the habit of forcing my kids to do things they don't want to do? As luck would have it, I'm facing another such decision right now. Nutmeg had a wonderful time in Spanish class during summer school, and she made great progress during the short class. At the time, she said she would definitely want to join the before-school daily Spanish classes offered at her school.
But now that it's time to sign up, she doesn't want to do it. I know she'll love it if I force her to sign up, but ... I never thought that would be my style.
To Tiger Mother, or not to Tiger Mother*?
Of course, the real Tiger Mother would probably have her getting up at 4 a.m. to add Latin and Chinese to her Spanish curriculum. But if you read the book, you know that one of the Tiger Mother's cub's totally turned on her.