Bikes, bruises, and growing up

At age 7 and a half—’cause we all know the halves are important—my daughter has learned to ride her bike training-wheel free.

It took three afternoons. Three long, are-we-doing-this-parenting-thing-right?, call-upon-the-name-of-Jesus afternoons.

I’m being a little dramatic, but then, so was she. I don’t know where she gets it from.

[Side note, I now know all about balance bikes. We missed the memo. That’s what second kids are for, right?] 

The process began rather abruptly with the announcement that she was ready for the training wheels to come off. Peer pressure might have had something to do with it, as most of her classmates and quite a few much younger friends have already passed this milestone. She’s been aware of this and has taken it in stride. For her, it wasn’t the time yet. She hadn’t been ready, and that was okay with her and okay with us.

We’ve learned to trust her instincts with things like this. When she received her first big-girl bike with training wheels for Christmas a few years ago, she lovingly ran her hands over its shiny pink surface. She was effusive in expressing her gratitude to Mom and Dad for the gift. She even sat on it for a minute so I could take a photo. But no no no, she was not ready to take it outside and put her feet to the pedals just yet.

So it sat, and we waited, and all the while she thought it over. And then one day, she hopped on and rode away, and that was that.

It was a huge learning moment for us as parents as we began to understand just a little bit more about how this girl worked and the intricacies of the traits God had woven into her personality.

We found ourselves back in the same boat again when a birthday passed, and then another, and she was no no no, not ready to take those training wheels off.

But three days ago, she decided it was time.

Day 1 was… well, I’m not going to talk about Day 1.

On Day 2, things were starting to come together—the pedaling, the steering—but boy was she quick to throw herself off the bike when she felt she was losing control. It became the routine: start to wobble, wail like a banshee, and leap off the beast bike and into the safety of the grass. This was simultaneously frustrating and entertaining. But we began to notice that despite the scrapes and bruises she was accumulating and the sweat, dirt, and tears of frustration running down her sweet face, she was not and I mean not going to stop. She was getting so close, but after a couple hours of this torture (for all of us), I had to set a timer to put an end to it and promised we’d be back at it the next day.

So, Day 3. She had a fierce gleam in her eye as she strapped on the purple princess helmet. She let me take a picture of her sitting on the bike. And then she kicked off and just rode away. For the next two hours I watched her wheel up and down the sidewalk in front of our home, turn around in the neighbors’ driveways, and swing back by again while I cheered, shot video, texted the grandparents to share the news, and breathed a massive sigh of relief.

IMG_4495

Learning to ride a bike. I can’t remember what the process was like when I was the one wibbling and wobbling on two wheels for the first time. But if it was anything like this, well, bless my dear parents.


This morning we noticed she’d selected a pair of tall socks for school, which she had pulled up past her shins. I thought it was an odd selection (temps here are reaching the 80s already) and raised an eyebrow at my husband.

“She’s covering up the bruises,” he explained. She pulled down the socks to show me her shins.

Small blue and purple bruises marked paths up the fronts of both legs—wounds from all those collisions with her pedals while falling off the bike. I grimaced, but encouraged her that it was okay and she didn’t need to hide them. Her dad chimed in, telling her they were awesome battle scars and that made them cool.

She looked at us skeptically and hiked the socks back up.

We’ve been seeing the signs of a little girl who’s growing up. Lingering a little longer in the mirror when she brushes her hair. Getting embarrassed more easily. Writing a note to a boy: “You’re cute.” (My husband nearly died.) Showing concern over having the right thing to wear. Simultaneously wanting my arms around her at all times and wanting me to leave her alone.

But this, with the bruises. There is so much for us to learn, 7-year-olds and parents.

The bruises are ugly. Why would we want anyone to see them?

Because there is beauty in those wounds. There is a story.

What strength and determination my daughter discovered within herself in those moments as she struggled to conquer this thing she’d set out to do! But perhaps more significant, she recognized after time and time of falling—struggling alone through the frustration—that Mom and Dad were right there for her, calling out advice, ready to swoop in and scoop her back up, help her get back on track if she would only let us.

We fall; He offers us a hand and helps us to our feet. We brush ourselves off. He sets us back on the path and we try, try again. When we finally overcome it, whatever challenge we face, we take with us those black and blue reminders of the struggle. But we also walk away with a story to tell—a beautiful, grace-filled story.


Don’t be ashamed that you fell down, baby girl. Show your bruises and tell your story, and know your mama is trying her best to do the same.

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