Monday, August 15, 2005


In Which We Go Downhill...

If you saw the crowd lining our street this past weekend, you'd have thought there was a parade. But no, it was just me, "teaching" the Brownie to ride a bike, and it was a spectacle to behold.

The Brownie was riding her brother's bicycle, which Thomas hasn't touched in two years, preferring the speed, stability and performance of his Big Wheel (and who can blame him? I tell you, if they made them for grown-ups, my hybrid bike would be gathering dust in the garage). Brownie outgrew her tricycle and wanted to see what a two-wheeler was like, so I lowered the seat on Thomas' bike, she lashed Foxo, her constant stuffed-animal companion, to the handlebars, and we began.

I put "teaching" in quotes earlier because the Brownie required no instruction. See, the bike still had its training wheels on. But it was a little bit higher off the ground than she was used to and so, even though she had four-wheel stability and clear ability to use the pedals and steer the bike, she insisted that I trot along behind her "in case I fall over," she said.

"Honey," I said. "The training wheels are on. You can't fall over."

"Could," she said, and that was that.

So here's me, running along behind her like some half-assed Secret Service agent trailing the motorcade while she tore off down the sidewalk at 60 miles an hour.

"DAD! KEEP UP! DAAADEEEEEE!!!" she screamed over her shoulder in a high-pitched voice that caused dogs to yap wildly and neighbors to emerge from their back yards.

"I'm trying!" I shouted back. Or would have shouted back, if I'd had any oxygen to spare. Instead, all I could manage was a sputtering, "Aaggh! A-huh-a-huh! Oh Gawd aggh!" Running is just not something I do, not unless there's a field of lava or a giant Japanese-style monster coming up fast behind me.

I caught up with her at the edge of our neighborhood, where the level part of the sidewalk ends. Here, the pavement took a bend and started down a hill. Not an especially steep hill, but enough to give a 4-year-old pause.

"Are we going down the hill?" I asked weakly.

"Yes," she said, turning to me. "But you have to stay Right. Be. Hind. Me!" To emphasize this point, she gave me two seconds' worth of The Look, enough to verify that She Meant It.

As she psyched herself up, the lightbulb came on and I surreptitiously grabbed the back of the bike seat. If I held on, I reasoned, I could both control her speed down the hill and actually keep up.

We started down.

My plan worked really well at first. I trotted briskly behind her and kept a firm hand on the back of the bike, slowing her just enough that I could keep up. She screamed with glee and let her legs dangle as gravity did its work.

Our downfall was the branch that had fallen on the sidewalk ahead of us. And by "branch" I mean "twig," roughly the length of a ruler, roughly the width of a toothpick, something that would not have caused so much as a bump had we gone straight over it.

But the Brownie spied it and reacted as though a giant redwood had just crashed in front of us. She swerved right to avoid the twig, veering into the minute gutter between the edge of the concrete sidewalk and the beginning of someone's lawn. At this point, I lost my grip on the seat. The bike pitched to one side and I lunged in to grab it and keep it from flopping over.

I needn't have worried. With catlike reflexes, the Brownie made a hard left, bringing the bike back onto the sidewalk and straight across my path, directly in front of my onrushing self.

And then she jumped.

I could not have been more surprised at that moment if she had sprouted butterfly wings and wafted away. In less time than it takes me to write about, she nimbly launched herself up and away from the careening bike. She didn't gain too much altitude, though, because as she bailed out, the upkicked heel of her trailing foot knifed into my crotch. She rolled into the grass. My eyes, meanwhile, rolled up into their sockets.

The impact was intense. Such power from such a little body! Still moving, I doubled over and plowed head-first into the bike, which was now sitting crossways on the sidewalk. Momentum propelled me onward and I fell across the bike, collapsing on top of it. The bike fell over and I skidded across the sidewalk for a few abrasive seconds, my legs and hands being treated to the kind of aggressive exfoliation that you probably have to pay big bucks for at a spa. I rolled bonelessly for a bit, dragging the bike behind me, then came to rest on my back, eyes shut, one leg caught in the chain of the bike, feeling the growing heat that can only come from the Leaden Orb of Pain dropping into your nether regions.

Slowly I began to writhe in agony, a modern-day Job in the ashes. I could hear voices, neighborhood children in a nearby yard, chattering in a gabble of amusement and awe.

"Did you see--"


"--kicked him right in the--"

"--his head bounced off the seat--"


Presently, I was aware of a shadow across my face. I opened my eyes and beheld the Brownie, completely unharmed, looking down on me with a worried face.


I rolled over, grunting like a wounded bison, cradling myself as best as I could in public. "I'm okay, honey. I--"

She interrupted me, looking around anxiously. "Daddy, where's Foxo?"

You'll be relieved to know we found the stuffed animal, who had also managed to leap to the safety and softness of the grass while I was engaged in the sidewalk equivalent of boogie-boarding. Together, the three of us made our way back up the hill.

Thomas was standing at the top, waiting for us. "ARE YOU OKAY?" he bellowed at the top of his lungs.

"Daddy's hurt!" the Brownie called back, then announced, in a louder voice and for the edification of the entire neighborhood, "I KICKED HIM IN HIS BASEBALLS!!"

In the aftermath of the weekend, and for reasons I can't begin to fathom, Thomas is suddenly interested in his bike again. He's asked if I can remove the training wheels and teach him to ride "for real."

"And I won't jump off!" he promised. "If I fall, I'll just stay on the bike."

So we're off to the sporting goods store for a new bike helmet. Plus some elbow and kneepads for Thomas.

Oh, and a cup for me. Just in case.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I had to share this with the office... because they caught me laughing at loud. Thanks for the Monday funny.
Good luck with the lessons. I was lucky with my boy, he learned how to ride a 2 wheel in an hour. You might consider getting some elbow and knee pads for yourself. In case you decide to go dancing with the sidewalk again.
Oh my god. I was both laughing at your story and panicking at the thought of my own daughter getting older. I'm so dead.

Also, you know, they DO make adult big wheels:
I actually just spit out water laughing. My dad likes to complain about teaching me to ride my back (in all fairness, I was kind of a pain). Might have to send him this so that he can experience a moment of, "well, at least I didn't get kicked in the..."
Me thinks you are going to have a very hard time keeping up with that little one.

Thanks for the BIG laugh today-
Thank you!! You had me slapping the old knees again. Keep this up and I will need a knee replacement.
You are such a good Dad.
Love Art Lad also.
FANTASTIC. Ahh, how I look forward to children of my own. I remember my dad and his smoker's lungs chasing me down the street on my training bike as well. I guess it's part of the package of being a good parent. :)

P.S...thanks for the link!
My, parenting isn't just a job, it's an adventure! Thanks for sharing and glad you survived without serious injury.
I loved this was truly hilarious, but the funniest part (for me) was when your daughter, after wounding you so drastically, peered down at you with great concern....for her stuffed animal! Classic. I could be bleeding from my eyeballs and my little angel would probably have to check on the welfare of his Miffy (a well worn stuffed rabbit that has not left his side since we brought him home from the hospital three years ago) first!
Thanks for another good laugh
My stomach hurts from laughing so hard - this is great, MM! Thank you for the outright guffaws. :) And I hope you and the baseballs are recuping nicely - wise choice with the cup, me thinks.
Does it make me a bad person because I laughed so hard that I cried upon reading about your painful exploits?

All I can say is that you have got to be one ballsy guy to give it yet another go.
Baseballs? Where'd she get that from? Just wondering...:-)
Baseballs? Where'd she get that from? Just wondering...:-) in it is unbelievable how long I laughed. I feel I should say sorry because this is definitely one of those "funny 'cause it's not me" stories. At least it's one you'll tell forever!
Ahh....the joys of parenthood.

I've always heard that "love hurts" and now I know what they mean. (:

Cute story.
your baseball eh ... do you teach her everything, I mean kneeing the nether region is a concept that I though my sister when she was 10.

oh poor you. :)

I could not stop laughing.
Oh geez; I don't know what was the funniest part of that whole thing...

:::still laughing out loud:::

Here's hoping that *everyone* is properly outfitted with safety equipment before the next lesson! :)
Having her yell out to the neighborhood that she's done her best to prevent further offspring is one thing, but your leg caught in the chain of the bike?!?!?!
Ow. Ow ow ouch.

I still have scars from my learning-to-ride-a-bike days. I don't think my Dad ever got any though. :)
Well told, MM. I'm sorry for the biking debacle, but it sure will make for a great Daddy-Brownie memory. I remember the time I was biking along on my training-wheeled bike in the park with my father, and a herd of rogue teenagers on bigger bikes zoomed up and knocked me over. I rolled to the ground, and then one of them actually ran over me. I was scared shitless on the sidewalk as my father took off sprinting after the offenders, grabbing one of them by the shirt, pulling him off of his bike, and yelling like pro-wrestler in his face, thereby saving my life.

At least that's how I remember the story. He might have just been teaching me to ride a bike.
Thank you very much. I needed a side splitting, stomach aching, eye tearing laugh.
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