As the parents of a precocious seven-year-old homeschool student, Mary and I share the responsibility of not only raising our daughter in the way she should go (per Proverbs 22:6), but also teaching the basic curricula applicable to her age. For the most part she’s a willing student, eager to learn and even more eager to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions…. Science is her favorite subject—she loves to collect insects and isn’t ooged out by catching frogs, toads, and garter snakes. At one time she even went through a spider egg harvesting phase. Fortunately that obsession was short-lived—hatching black widow eggs in the house, as fascinating as that may sound, would not have ended well for any of us.
Not long after Hannah was born, I realized there were four essential life skills that I as a father was obligated to teach my daughter: 1) how to tie her shoes, 2) how to catch a ball, 3) how to ride a bicycle, and 4) how to bring down a deer with just her teeth. Well, that fourth one was an option, but I’ve taken the first three quite seriously. It amazed me how fast she picked up the shoe-tying thing. Granted, she ties her shoes in mirror image from the way I do mine, but she gets the job done—she hasn’t busted her face yet because her shoes have come untied while running. Score one for Dad.
The ball-catching skill has been a little more, uh, challenging. She’s got a strong throwing arm and can zing a tennis ball fairly accurately, but she has a tendency to close her eyes, turn away, and cover her face when I toss it back to her. When I tell her to keep her eye on the ball, she takes my command literally. “Dad, you failed at this one,” Hannah informed me one day after a miserable ball-catching session. I conceded defeat, but she’s still young. And I’m still a perfectionist. Besides, she’s a competitive gymnast. Last I checked, no ball skills are needed to excel at that sport, so I’m good for now.
My dad taught me how to ride my bike when I was five years old. And he was a spry 28. My first bicycle either didn’t come with training wheels or Dad chose not to use them. Regardless, he’d run beside me, grasping the handle bars until I’d gained enough speed to let go. Usually I’d coast along in a straight line, wobbly but upright. After only one major crash (which featured pea gravel embedded in my knee), I managed to perfect this essential life skill.
Hannah received her first “big girl” bike from my parents on Christmas day in 2012, when she was five. I outfitted the pink princess bicycle with training wheels, and she remained quite content riding around in our driveway and in the cul-de-sac with relative stability. When she turned six and the training wheels still remained firmly mounted to the bike’s frame, I began to feel the pressure to teach her how to ride on two wheels instead of four. First, I raised the training wheels so the bicycle didn’t actually rest on them, but this resulted in a teeter-totter ride that made Hannah nervous. So I removed them altogether and began to teach her the old-fashioned way, just like my daddy did, by holding onto the handle bars and gripping the back of her neck while running along beside her. I was 49 years old at the time, and suffering from painful bone spurs in both of my heels. I was not spry. The training wheels went back on after 30 minutes.
As Hannah approached her seventh birthday the fatherly obligation again began to kick in. “You’re going to learn how to ride your bike without training wheels,” I declared one day.
“What if I want them back on?” Hannah asked as I removed the ambulatory crutches.
“Sorry, I’m throwing them away,” I lied. “From now on, if you want to ride your bike you have to ride it without training wheels.”
My feet feeling much better (thank You, Jesus!), Hannah and I started the process once more. This time I was determined to succeed.
Copyright © 2015 David C Hughes