“I want to bring THIS bike.”
We were heading out for our morning dog walk, and because I was letting his little brother ride on a cheap plastic pedal bike, my four year old wanted to ride HIS cheap plastic pedal bike instead of his regular big boy bike.
“It doesn’t work outside very well. E’s is small enough that when he tires of it I can hang it on the stroller. Yours is too big and I can’t carry it when you want to stop riding.”
“I won’t stop riding. I’ll ride it the whole way. ALL the way.”
“No, love, you won’t.”
“Yes. I will. I promise. Pleeeease!”
I had a choice. I could put my foot down, or I could let him learn the hard way. (Knowing full well him learning the hard way meant I’d be dragged down with him.) I took a breath.
“If I let you do this, you are responsible for that bike. I am not carrying it home for you.”
“I’m gonna ride it!”
And so it was that both my boys rode away from my house on their cheap plastic pedal bikes with the slippery wheels that can’t get any traction on pavement. E tired of his before we even reached the end of our cul-de-sac, and was frustrated by the fact that I wouldn’t let him ride into traffic, so I strapped him into the stroller and I hung his little bike on the back of it.
M lasted another 20 feet or so. He pedaled his way down the footpath towards the park. It seemed to be going well on the little downhill slope but became increasingly cumbersome when the path slanted upward, and he gave up.
“I don’t wanna ride this stupid bike.”
“Can you carry it?”
M didn’t dissolve into a complete tantrum, but I could tell we weren’t going to be moving any time soon and the dogs really needed to poop, so I suggested he hide his bike in the bushes and we would retrieve it on the way home, at which point he would be responsible for getting it all the way home.
So we continued our walk bikeless, and as we passed back through the park, M rescued the bike, rode it all of 4 feet, and then declared it was too hard.
“I know, love, but remember what Mommy said? I told you if you wanted to ride that bike, you had to be responsible for it.”
“But I can’t ride it, it’s too hard!”
“Then you can push it, pull it, or carry it, but Mommy can’t help you.”
We were having this discussion as I very slowly walked up the footpath back to our cul-de-sac.
I noticed a boy walking behind us, maybe 7 or 8 years old, hanging back a bit. We got to the top of the path and he stopped off to the side. I thought perhaps he was waiting for someone to pick him up to drive him to school, but he seemed to be paying attention to us, so I wondered if perhaps he was scared to walk past my dogs.
“Come on, bud, we’re blocking the path. You can do it.”
“I can’t lift it”, M whines. “It’s too heavy.”
“Ok. Try moving it another way.”
M is crying now, and purposely making it more difficult for himself to push the bike.
“Carry it, Mommy!”
“Sorry buddy, my hands are full with the stroller.”
The struggle continued. He whined, he cried. It would not be that hard for him to get this bike home himself, this was mostly the dramatics of a four year old. I stuck my ground. Tough lessons need to be taught and this was a teachable moment: Personal responsibility was the lesson for the day.
I noticed that after we cleared the path, the boy was still not overtaking us. He had plenty of room to pass now that we were in the middle of the cul-de-sac but he seemed to be hanging back and listening. Probably just interested in the drama, I thought, wondering why I’m not carrying my son’s bike when I could obviously do it.
But then he spoke.
“I can carry that for him.”
“Do you live far? I can carry that to your house for him.”
“Oh he’s okay, I told him he had to carry it and it’s kind of just about teaching him a lesson.”
The kid looked unconvinced. He persisted:
“Do you live far? I’ll carry it.”
I was torn between continuing my “lesson” and allowing this kid to be a hero. I find when people offer assistance, even though sometimes it’s not necessary, allowing them to help ends up with both of you feeling better, so I relented.
“Thank you, that is very kind of you. We’re just in this building, but around the back.”
M immediately perked up. I asked him to lead the way and he ran ahead of the boy to our place, free of his stupid, cumbersome toy bike.
We got to the house and I thanked the boy.
“What’s your name?”, I asked him.
“William, you are very kind. Please never stop being kind, it will get your far in life.”
William beamed from ear to ear. He was proud of himself, and so he should be. He saw a kid struggling, and went out of his way to help. Even more than that, I think he was a bit scared of the dogs (he seemed to be avoiding them at all costs) but STILL he persevered in trying to help.
I realized the lesson in personal responsibility had shifted into something much greater. I turned to my son.
“Did you see what happened there?”
“He carried my bike.”
“Ah yes, but do you know what really happened? He saw someone who needed help. He could have kept walking, he could have ignored it, or decided it wasn’t his problem, but he didn’t. He went out of his way to help you because he saw you were upset. That’s real kindness. See, we can all do nice things when we’re asked to, but offering help when it’s not expected? That’s a big deal. That’s what we have to do. We have to be like William.”
“I like William.”
“Me too, kiddo.Me too.”
Lessons learned today: Carry your own bike, and offer to carry someone else’s, too.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – Philippians 3:2