Out in the backyard

By Mir
May 15, 2007

Well, it’s official. Life is Back To Normal. My manicure fought the good fight, but was chipped in three places by tonight. The polish has been removed, and I consider the whole Friday to Tuesday thing a personal best. Now I can get back to things like obsessing over selling my house!

Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep a house in showing-ready condition when you have children? It is VERY VERY HARD. For the past couple of months I have struggled with this through rain and cold and let me tell you, I have used up a lot of duct tape on some very whiny children.

But now, everything is different. It’s warm out. That lovely band of marauding landscapers finally came and did my yard clean-up, revealing plenty of room to romp and play. Why, I haven’t had to let the kids into the house in WEEKS!

I joke, of course. I always let them sleep in the house. I mean, unless they’ve been bad.

On the whole, though, they get up and get ready for school, go to school, come home, drop their backpacks, and go back outside to play until it’s time to eat and shower and go to bed.

I like this arrangement very much. The house stays (relatively) clean, though of course one can track the progress of both the seriousness of play outside and the number of trips inside by following the smeared muddy handprints along the walls, or what appears to be the implosion of clods of dirt in the bathrooms. The children are getting fresh air and exercise. And perhaps most importantly, no one bothers me unless they are bleeding or on fire.

[Note: No children were actually torched in the making of this post.]

For the most part my children are excellent playmates for one another. They’re less than two years apart, and their temperaments are compatible. (Chickadee is bossy, Monkey is agreeable.) That’s not to say that they never fight; they do, and when they do, tempers flare HIGH. But in general they can amuse themselves for hours with amiable tolerance.

Sure, they often dig up random sections of lawn or collect every bug within a mile or come inside looking as though they’d been busy rolling in mud, but they play nicely.

It has recently come to my attention that I may be just a wee bit overprotective. (Shut up.) You see, I let the kids play on our property without overseeing them every second, and that’s fine. But I’ve not let them go wandering around the neighborhood. I kind of like knowing I could just step outside and yell at them if the need arose.

But Chickadee is 9 now, and her friend from around the corner is only 8 and is allowed to ride her bike around the loop on her own. She rode over to our house and asked if Chickadee could join her. I have no trouble delivering the “I’m not HER mom, I’m YOUR mom, and these are OUR rules” speech when I need to, but… I had to stop and think about this. Honestly, was I going to tell her she couldn’t leave the driveway without me? Was it maybe time to let go a little?

I considered it, and then let her go. I did make her take one of our 2-way radios with her, reasoning that if she needed me she could let me know, or that I could check on her location if I needed. In reality, all it accomplished was that SHE beeped me every couple of minutes with exciting updates like “We’ve ridden around the loop twice” and “I think a bug just bit me” and “How many channels does this thing have, anyway?”

The problem was not Chickadee, or her friend that she’d gone off riding with. The problem was that when she left, Monkey had a complete meltdown. His playmate had gone off without him, and worse, I had allowed it. No amount of consolation would soothe him.

It’s wonderful to have two kids so close in age who play so well together, but I do think it’s important that they have their own friends and interests, too. I usually try to either make sure they each have a friend over on playdates or that the child without a pal is sufficiently occupied so as to leave the other one alone. Sometimes I do ask that one of the kids basically “share” a friend, but it depends on the situation and who the other child is.

Unfortunately, what I thought was a tailor-made excuse to allow Chickadee to go off without Monkey turned out to be a huge miscalculation on my part.

You see, Monkey can’t ride his bike yet. Back last year, before he was diagnosed with sensory problems, I bought him a new bike. He was outgrowing his little one and I thought he might warm up to riding a bit more with a bike more his size. Where he’d barely ridden the smaller bike, he now complained bitterly any time I suggested he ride the new one, saying it was uncomfortable and he couldn’t do it. After a while, I took the training wheels off, thinking that maybe he just needed some extra motivation to be “one of the big kids.”

All of which is to say, I’m an idiot.

Now he won’t ride his bike at all, most days, because his balance is lousy and he’s lacking in most of the motor skills necessary to safely navigate a two-wheeler. I considered putting his training wheels back on, but he’s a little old for that, too, and instead of figuring out a solution I’ve just sort of let it go for now. He rides either his Buzz Lightyear bike (which is one of these) or his plasma car up and down the driveway and is happy, most days.

But when the girls rode off, the other day, he cried and cried and would not be consoled. And he told me that his bike was stupid and the training wheels were stupid and I shouldn’t have let Chickadee go without him. (Meanwhile, over the radio came Chickadee: “We just passed some acorns. Over!”)

I finally got him calmed down and we played a game for a while until Chickadee came back, but now I’m wondering if this is going to be a crippling social handicap for him, not being able to zip off on his bike. I’m sure he’ll learn to ride it eventually. And hopefully before the other kids start noticing that he can’t.

Today when the kids got home from school and headed outside to play, I heard Monkey tell his sister “And don’t LEAVE me today!” I did see her friend ride past, a bit later, but when I peeked outside Chickadee was busy setting up an obstacle course in the driveway for Monkey. She then got out her scooter and helped him put on his helmet and scoot around the course.

It would probably be wrong to offer her money to teach him to ride his bike. And likely wouldn’t even work. But I considered it.


  1. Nancy R

    “We just passed some acorns. Over!”

    BWAHHHHAAAAAHAAAAA! That is SO my kids.

  2. Kris

    It’s so hard being the little (younger) one and having “sibling’s friend’s sibling friends.” Kasia’s best friend K has a younger sister. So naturally Emily likes to hang around with K’s younger sib. It’s only natural. She kind of got friends by default, but it’s hard to include all four of them in stuff. (It also helped that they were all girls.)

    We’re still in the process of getting Em diagnosed – with anything at this point. But at least the doc we saw today agrees that it’s something beyond the range of “normal kid behavior.” And that makes it even tougher. Kids like Em and Monkey have a really tough time as it is. :Sigh:

    Give him a banana from us (kidding!) and let him know he’s not alone. And I don’t think it would hurt to give Chickadee some incentive to help her brother. Maybe not money, but something. Give her a hug from us regardless.

    Never an easy solution, is there?

  3. Kris

    Ooh, I had a thought. What if Monkey got to “roger” Chickadee and send over some of his own observations? Kasia and Em like to do that on the two-ways…even when Kasia’s with her own friends and Em’s not.

  4. Zee

    Maybe Otto will come up with a solution…? Maybe it could be their thing? I dunno. Just a thought. :)

  5. Lucinda

    My two are close together like yours. Girl first. They play together wonderfully most of the time (and fight viciously when they don’t). It’s great because they have a live-in best friend. But when sis leaves to play with a friend, brother can also be inconsolable. It doesn’t help that our neighborhood is full of girls and very few boys. So I feel for Monkey. I watch it with my own. Growing pains suck.

  6. ChristieNY

    Oh hun this can’t be easy. I hope that Otto can somehow help out so you don’t have to take this all on by yourself, it’s overwhelming enough trying to keep your kids safe and happy but to throw more obstacles makes it that much more difficult.

    Hang in there, someday Monkey will learn to ride his bike, and, I have a feeling you’re going to need to help him with that. But! It will all work out. I promise. Hugs!

  7. Jean

    When my kids were ready to learn to ride their bikes, we’d go to a large, empty parking lot. Maybe this would help with Monkey. Since there would be nobody around to watch him either, you could put the training wheels back on while he does a little more practicing.

  8. Sandra Tayler

    I have a son who is approaching 10 years old. He still can not ride a bike. Thus far it has not been a social issue because he can ride a scooter and just uses that instead. I hadn’t thought of paying him to learn the bike. Do you think it would work?

  9. Cele

    Oh my heart breaks for Monkey, but I know his time to shine will come, training wheels will fall off and he will fly.

  10. Amy

    Maybe you could try a reward system like offering them both a fancy bell for their handlebars if they at least try? I was also a slow learner on the bike, I was finally motivated by the promise of a basket.

  11. Angel

    Awww dear Monkey!! I didn’t learn to ride my bike without training wheels until I was 9. So let him know he’s not alone!

    Even without sensory issues, some kids just have different coordination. I can’t skate to save my life!

  12. hollygee


    I don’t know if it works, but it sounded interesting. I am about to buy some training wheels for an adult bike because I am balanced challenged, too.

  13. Tamatha

    My son also has just recently been diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, and learning to ride a bike for him was hell on earth. We took him out to our huge grassy field and stuck a lightly weighted backpack on him. It took a weekend of me running behind him, balancing him, but he’s done it on his own ever since. Good luck!

  14. becky

    I think I was fairly old before I learned to ride mine, too. But our neighborhood was spread out and didn’t have sidewalks, or a safe place to ride, except in the driveway. For me, it was a balance & vision issue.

    I think the suggestion to involve Monkey by giving him the other radio is a great idea! Do you think that would work on making him feel less abandonded by Chickadee?

    So cool that they are playmates. Makes a huge difference.

  15. LadyBug Crossing

    My LLB was almost 11 before she could ride her bike well enough to hit the streets. She’s still pretty leery about riding it without her brother or Mr. right there with her. (She was a figure skater with excellent balance, etc.) So – fear not. It will happen.

    This year… she’s already been out riding… The next thing I know she’ll be driving a car!! OMG! I’m not ready!!


  16. Wired

    new reader =)

    Sounds like Monkey has alot of the same issues as my 13 year old son.
    Fear not Mir, it gets better =) It took my son “forever” to learn to ride his bike, but he finally did….by himself.
    He can’t do wheelies and stuff like the rest of the street posse’, but all my worrying that he would never learn, that he wouldn’t fit in, etc… was for naught =)
    Monkey will turn into a “13 year old”, equipped with attitude and selective hearing…I promise. =)

  17. lisa in nj

    My son has the sensory issues also, so bike riding is hard for him too. We still have training wheels on, so that helps. I’m not sure if my guy will ever be ready to ride two wheels. He is so wiggley with the trianing wheels.

  18. Terri

    My “Monkey” (also 7) hates to even try to ride his bike. Never thought about the sensory aspect of it, duh. All his friends ride theirs so, like you, I worry about it, but so far he doesn’t care that he’s the ONLY one not riding a bike. I don’t know about where you are, but his Cub Scout pack has bike clinics, etc several times a year, and I thought that wanting to go to that with his friends would motivate him. Not this year, at least. I guess it could be worse — he could really want to ride and be frustrated because it’s hard. Still …

  19. rachel

    my sensory kid didn’t learn how to ride a bike without training wheels until age 8, so we just left the training wheels on. I doubt Chickadee would tease him if he had the wheels on, and then he could ride around for a while and start to “get” the whole balance thing.

    ditto with pumping on swings – dunno if Monkey can do that yet, but it was *forever* before my sensory kid could do it.

    My older 2 are 2 years apart, and they have a lot of friends in common, but that might be because they are both girls. But they can also just play together (and even include their little sister) for hours and hours and hours.

  20. MomCat

    My “almost 13” year old still cannot ride well. Or rather, she cannot stop well. Stopping always involves falling down. Painfully.

    I think I’m quite overprotective, too, since this bothers me so much that I don’t make her ride her bike. She hates it, and then there’s the injury issue. I just couldn’t stomach it when she fell hard and came limping up the driveway, sobbing, blood dripping down her arm, and my mother-in-law said, chirpily, “You’re fine!! Go ride some more! No, no – you’re okay!!” Grandma thought I was making a wuss of my daughter by cleaning and bandaging her scrape and murmuring soothing words. :/

    In my defense, she is an only child and a preemie (24 week) with sensory issues and cerebral palsy and balance/coordination problems as a result.

    I also wouldn’t dream of letting her out of my sight and I have gotten considerable guff for it. Honestly, who out there lets their 12 year old daughter go to the movies or the mall with a friend and no mother present? In the fourth largest city in the US, and a known venue for scores of child molesters? If so, I want some of what you are drinking.

    When will I be well adjusted enough to allow her to go off with just a friend? When she is 21…maybe.

  21. Randi

    My son hates his bike – no sensory issues, just a huge fear of falling and getting hurt.

    He’s 6.

    Do I think he’ll ride it? Maybe – before he’s 18 hopefully…but by then he’ll probably want to drive.

    Good for Chickadee for playing with Monkey so well. And just think, maybe you can tell Monkey that since no one will know him after the move, he can learn to ride a bike NOW and the new friends can think he’s been riding it w/o training wheels since he was 5!!

  22. Contrary

    Acorns! Man, you slay me.

    I vote for Otto for the teaching of the riding of the bike. I taught my boys how to do many things, including pitching overhand and how to put the correct spin on a ‘spiral’, however, I couldn’t teach them how to ride their bikes because I just plain couldn’t fight past the idea that they would fall and be maimed forever. Of course, most kids fall at least once and are generally only temporarily maimed.

    So, it might be a good idea for the GUY (because guys just don’t get that worked up over boo-boos)to teach him how to ride his bike, because Monkey might not be so nervous and will be able to concentrate on the important parts, like how to bounce himself and the entire bike on only the front wheel.

  23. Carrie

    I love Chackadee! Too funny!

    My son (he of the Sensory Integration Disorder) also took forever to learn to ride. We hired his physical therapist for 2 extra session dedicated solely to riding without the training wheels. He got it (and we avoided lots of stress for us), but still wasn’t terribly comfortable with it. When the neighborhood kids were out on bikes he’d ride his scooter with them. Then one day it just clicked for him (age 9 or maybe 10). Now he zooms around on his bike comfortably. All this being a longwinded way of saying, don’t worry, it’ll happen (but maybe you could get someone to point him in the right direction when he’s a little more ready).

    By the way, lest you lose the aura of the weekend, you’re still pretty even with chipped nails!

  24. Jeana

    The mental picture of Chickadee setting up an obstacle course for her brother just made my day.

  25. MMM

    MIne are 6 years apart but spend every waking second together. When the big one leaves to do something like spend the night with a friend, the little one looses it. Breaks my heart. After she calms down, though, she’s a wonderful child to have around. She is the calm one and she’s so easy to please. She loves to do anything. It’s a nice break from all the bickering and I think they need their own time too. It’s hard to find that since I homeschool, so when we joined a gym, it was nice that they can each go play with other friends and get away from each other!

  26. Sheryl

    I had the same thing happen the other day. Our neighbor who’s 6 (6!) asked if Emily could ride around the block. Um, no. (Em is 9 too.) However, I do the 2 houses on either side of us are loaded with kids, so they pretty much run up and down the street all day long, and I have no problem with that.

  27. jenn2

    I’m taking notes on this post and begging for more like it. Selby and Russ are 23 months apart. While it isn’t an issue now, I can already see his eyes light up when she decides pay attention to him. I forsee many similar situations in my future.

  28. Ani

    I read somewhere about helping kids balance and learn to ride a bike by using a small bike WITHOUT PEDALS, no training wheels and letting them coast down a gentle hill. They should be able to plant both their feet down for balance, which helps them feel safer, and use the handbrake for braking.

    That said…our hand brake is on the front tire (WTH?) and said non-bike-riding almost-7-yr-old has no desire to learn to ride. Go figure.

  29. Jodi

    I am glad I am not the only overprotective one. My girls are 11 and 9 and I JUST let them go around the block (in our town of 100 people) for the first time last week. :)

  30. Liise

    Monkey will ride like the wind in no time…:)

  31. Amy

    I was riding my bike by age 4 (no training wheels for me!) but my sister didn’t figure it out (even w/ the training wheels) until she was almost 9….and it was very frustrating for her – but she got it, and my guess is the Monkey will be even more motivated than my sister was, and will pick it up in no time!

  32. Jamie Lee

    Like you, I am seriously digging the good weather/backyard combo. This is the first time I’ve been able to allow Meghan to just ramble out there on her own, and it’s wonderful. I send her out the backdoor with the dog, and she’s happy entertaining herself (usually relocating earth worms) for decent chunks of time. So nice.
    And I can so understand your hesitance to let Chickadee go off on her bike. Even nine-year olds look SO young to me now (maybe because I’m so old?). It’s scary. Two-way radio is a great idea. I’ll have to get me some of those.
    Thanks for the giggles.
    And I’m glad you let the kids sleep in the house. ;)

  33. Mysh

    Maybe Chickadee would let Monkey try using her scooter? I would think that as long as he could follow behind her and her friend, the mode of transportation wouldn’t be as big a hurdle for him to join in on the fun and not feel abandoned by her. Of course, this is just my 2 cents…fully aware that I don’t know the extent of his sensory problems. :O) Good luck!

  34. steph

    I’ve taught six of my seven kiddos (so far!) to ride without training wheels and we found that it was actually a little easier to learn to ride on some flat grass. the bike doesn’t go careening out of control when you pick up a little speed….just a thought! ((monkey))

  35. SusieJ

    Yes, Steph, that’s right. It also helps if there is a little hill too, to give them some momentum. I feel for you showing the house. I have no idea how it happens, but it’s clean, and magically dirty in seconds. Thinking of you – I know it must be so stressful.

  36. Barb Cooper

    My older child has the same sensory integration issues, too. My husband taught her to ride a bike by taking off the training wheels, lowering the seat and then taking off the pedals. Basically, he made the bike into a… coaster. She would coast up and down the driveway and when she got scared, she could just put her feet down. When she could coast all the way down the driveway without putting her feet down, he put the pedals back on and she got on that thing and rode off. We haven’t seen her since.

    He did the same thing for my younger, incredibly coordinated and fearless child. She learned effortlessly as well, only about two years earlier than her older sister.

    All of this worked much better tha MY approach which was to hide the bikes and claim that Santa needed them back.

  37. Barb Cooper

    Whoops–sorry, Ani. I was so excited to decloak and post something Helpful that I didn’t read down to where you had already posted the very same thing more concisely and therefore, Even More Helpful.

    I’ll be going back to lurking now.


  38. Katrina Stonoff

    “We just passed some acorns!” ROFL.

    When I got married the second time, my son was 8, and he didn’t know how to ride a bike. I’d tried several times, and he did the training wheels thing, but he just couldn’t get the hang of the balance.

    My new husband taught him in one afternoon. They went to a park that had a wide sidewalk with a very gentle slope, where he could practice balancing without having to also propel himself, and … well, I don’t know exactly what happened. I wasn’t there. But he came home riding and not bleeding.

    THAT was the day I knew I really was married again. Sure, I might miss some of the milestones, but I was no longer responsible for doing everything myself.

    So my advice? Let Otto do it! I’ll bet he’d love it.

  39. carolyn

    I was late, late, late learning to ride my bike without training wheels. In fact my younger sister and all our friends rode way before I did. They were very kind and gave me rides everywhere we went, and I don’t remember anyone ever making fun of me. One day, when I was about 10, I hopped on and took off. I did it in my own sweet time. Maybe Monkey will do that too. When he is ready and the time is right.

  40. Bah

    My nephew (has Asperger’s – a sensory problem, mostly) has the same sort of melt down when his sister does her own thing. Thankfully, it is becoming less traumatic as he gets older.

    BTW, Chickadee sounds like a fantabulous sister.

  41. MMM


  42. Andrea

    MMM…I was thinking the SAME thing as soon as I saw Jordin. My, my…Mir is not only pretty but a trendsetter as well!

  43. Sandee

    Passing those acorns must have hurt!

    Yes, I know, I’m 6.

  44. Melanie

    The plasma car is awesome, I NEED one!! (If only we had more space to ride/drive one on).

  45. tori

    My son is 7 and just learned to ride his bike a few weeks ago even though his twin sister and older sister learned long before he did. I was fearful when he started having trouble and acting exactly how you describe Monkey. My brother and my dad do not know how to ride a bike (they would kill me for telling people, I am sure, so don’t mention this to anyone…except your millions of readers I guess), so I was beginning to think it was some sort of problem with males in my family. I am sure Monkey will learn. What helped my son was to just take all the pressure off and not ask him to try. As soon as we did that, he decided he wanted to try. I have no idea where he gets that stubborness and sense of rebellion from (totally from me).

  46. Joanne

    Hi Mir,

    2 ideas, not sure if they are already listed above, running out of time.

    Smaller bike without the training wheels is easier to learn on–putting feet down builds confidence, and lower balance point.

    Also, someone balancing him who is closer to his size is less likely to tip him over while trying to help. Just make sure both are wearing long legged jeans to minimize boo-boos.

    Great idea about the weighted backpack–have not heard that one before!


  47. LyndaL

    Mir, I sympathise. My dyspraxic nine year old still can’t ride his bike and still has training wheels on it. He is now caught in the trap of not wanting to try without the wheels because he will fall off and not wanting to keep the wheels on because he gets laughed at. So he just doesn’t ride it. It doesn’t help that his brother who is 2 years younger can ride his bike fine without training wheels and has been doing so for a year. I don’t know the answer. We are going to try an intensive effort to get him going this summer but I suspect that bikes, like kicking balls, will just another of the things he doesn’t do.

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