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Steer Straight

June 5, 2014


Steer Straight & Keep Pedaling

bike wheel

Last month, when the weather warmed up, I pulled Jalen’s bicycle out of hibernation in the garage. She was ecstatic – until she noticed that I’d removed her training wheels.

“Daddy, where are the little wheels?”

“They’re gone, babe. You’re 5 now. You don’t need them anymore.”

“No, Daddy; I do! I can’t ride without them. Will you please put them back?”

“Nope, it’s time. I know you can do it. Here – I’ll help you.”

Much whining commenced, but in the end, she relented and got up on her bike to try. I assumed the position that every parent has found themselves at some point. Left hand on the handle bars, right hand under the seat – trying to run sideways as fast as I could. And when I couldn’t keep up, I gave her a push. “You’re doing it! Keep going!”

It was a beautiful sight…for about 3 seconds – and then she crashed – hard. I coaxed her back up a few times but it always ended as it had begun – Jalen on the ground, scraped up, crying and working on a new bruise. When she’d had enough, she stood up, defeated, left her bike where it landed and began walking home.

“Jalen…baby…where are you going?”

“I don’t want my bike anymore, Daddy. I can’t do it.”

She wasn’t trying to be dramatic. She meant it. She didn’t see a way over the hurdle in front of her. In her mind, it was impossible for her to ride it without the crutch she’d grown to expect and rely on. So she gave up; she quit.

In that moment, my heart broke a little. The thought of her feeling incomplete or incapable in any way pierced me, even over something so small. I wanted to intervene, but what could I do? It wasn’t enough for me to believe she could do it. She had to believe for herself. This was her journey – and she’d decided she was done. So I held her hand and her bike – and walked her home.

Thankfully, that’s not how this story ends because yesterday, she decided to try again. And lest you credit my parenting skills or even the iron will of my kid, I must admit, it was actually jealousy that moved her to try again. When Jalen saw her little sister riding her bike without struggle, it flipped a switch in her. She looked at her Mom and me and said, “If a 4-year old can ride a bike, then I know a 5-year old can ride it too!” And off she went to try again.

What happened next is going to change my life. I’m sure of it. I think it might change yours too.

Jalen climbed up on her seat and in a burst of energy and faith, she took off. Tons of passion – not a ton of skill, so you know how that ended. As she stood up, looking at a freshly scraped knee, I could almost see her standing at a crossroads. She could retreat to where she was safe – and sad – or she could try again and move a little closer to the awesome thing waiting for her. This moment would cut a path for her, in either direction.

I got down on my knees and put my face close to hers. “Do you wanna know a secret? …Did you know there’s a really special trick to riding a bike that only big kids know?”

Her eyes got big and she smiled a little. “What is it?”

Slowly, like I was delivering top secret information, I whispered, “Are you listening good? You’ve gotta steer straight and keep peddling…Say that back to me.”

She whispered it back to me. “You’ve gotta steer straight and keep peddling.”

“That’s right! You can’t stop pedaling or you’ll crash. And even if you pedal really hard, if you jerk the wheel around all over the place, you’ll crash. You’ve got to keep your wheel straight and look forward. That’s the secret. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Do you believe you can do it?”

“Yes, Daddy.”

“Then let’s try again.”

Jalen climbed back on and positioned her feet for takeoff. I gave her a little push and as she pulled away, I heard her whispering to herself. “Steer straight and keep pedaling… Steer straight and keep pedaling.” She picked up speed and her whisper grew louder. “Steer straight and keep pedaling.”

Losing her balance, she jerked the wheel far left and right a few times, but this time, she immediately corrected and steadied herself. Her head was forward now, instead of down – and her courage began to swell. With her wheels turning faster and faster, she yelled out to no one in particular, “Steer straight and keep pedaling!!”

And in that single moment, right before my eyes, I watched my daughter as she stepped out of her past and into her future.

It’s rare that we get to see someone’s moment of breakthrough so clearly. Watching it up close was inspiring – not because she’d learned to ride her bike – but because she overcame her fear and the lie playing in her head. What had been impossible just a day before not only became possible – it became reality.

I want to live my life like that, don’t you? I want to live life moving from breakthrough to breakthrough, stretching the boundaries of what should be possible for me – breaking down those paper fences that dictate who I can be, where I can go and what I can experience. Don’t you?

How do we do that?

By trying one more time.

Even when we think we can’t,

Even when past experience says it won’t work.

Even when we bear the bruises of previous attempts.

What if you’re just one brave moment away from entering a new and beautiful phase of your life? What if you’re just one brave choice away from breaking through what has been and taking hold of what will be? You sincerely might be. And even if that moment doesn’t come today, it will come…if you don’t give up.

So be brave.

Lean into what could go right.

Believe you can and position yourself to try.

You will fall. You will get hurt. You will most certainly have doubts.

But don’t give up.

Get back up.

Steer straight and keep pedaling.

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