Monday, July 23, 2007

Accomplishment of the day

I taught Monkey to ride a two-wheeler today. JD, and then both of us together, tried to teach her yesterday, but failed pretty miserably-- she has been using the balancing wheels in the "up" position for too long, and has come to rely on being able to tip the bike any which way without consequences.

See, this kid, who does cartwheels and pull-overs, with no help or even spotting, she was afraid to fall off the bike. This is the most challenging trait she has, I think-- for all of her many talents, she is risk-averse. So I challenge her, early and often. The thing that is as sure to get me upset as finding a dragon egg in his Christmas stocking is sure to make Hagrid happy is when Monkey refuses to think. And she knows it. I don't care if the answer she comes up with is wrong, just that she tried to reason it out, rather than guess it. Of course, once I persuade her to commence with the thinking, she is into it, and always eventually gets it. This is largely because I never ask things I don't think she can handle, and is also why I can tell her that I am sure she can get it if she tries. The main thing is to try. Same with physical challenges-- she has to try.

So today was not at all unusual. I had a friend over, and the two of us talked with Monkey about how boring it would be if we only did things we already knew how to do. My friend pointed out that Monkey wouldn't even know how to go to the bathroom if she wasn't into learning new things when she was little. That there was a real eye-opener.

Half hour or so of talking complete with the afternoon snack, and out we went. You have to try. You have to keep your balance. You have to go fast to keep your balance. Yup, just like that. The most maddening part? She did it once, and then got scared again, so she rewarded us with a long period of screwing up. She did it a second time, and another period of "oy, let me sabotage myself" followed. Finally, the third time she succeeded, she got it good. Not without minor incidents of relapse, but very, very minor.

When daddy got home, she showed off. And then told him that she knew that he would just open his mouth when he saw her. Rather proud of herself. Which, of course, is the whole point-- to create a series of accomplishments, in tasks that seemed difficult at first, such that she would learn to consider taking risks more routinely. Let me ask you this, though-- how many of these experiences do you figure it would take to propel her all the way through high school with a healthy self esteem? I only ask because I am so out of shape that running after that bike today winded me but good. I think I better make these next two weeks or so all about exercise.


Sara said...

Oh wow, I love to think about you spending an entire afternoon teaching Monkey to ride a bike.

I remember my dad standing with me at the top of the driveway one summer day pushing me down on my bike. He did the "I promise I'll hold on to the back thing" and then actually let go without me knowing it. So I learned that I could do it. Only years later did I think, hey what about trust? But I do trust him, so it must have been okay.

As for giving her self-esteem and teaching her that risk-taking is worthwhile, I bet your life is a pretty good model.

Catherine said...

This post makes me giggle because Sam is exactly the same way. He tried two or three times and demanded the training wheels be put back on. I figure I'll let him "be ready" before we try again...kind of like how we potty-trained (of course he was three years old by that maybe it's not the BEST plan...but it's a plan).

niobe said...

Yay Monkey! (and yay Julia!).

I can sympathize with Monkey, because the personality type you described is, well, me. But I'm not sure that risk-averseness (risk-adversity?) is all that closely connected with low self esteem. I think of it more as having a vicious superego that tears you to pieces when you don't live up to its standards.

kate said...

"as finding a dragon egg in his Christmas stocking is sure to make Hagrid happy"

That better not be a spoiler, lady! Alexander has his nose in the book and i can't pry it away from him yet, sigh...

Julia said...

No way, Kate-- I just started it myself today. I was just looking for something that is just about the surest thing there is, since I have yet to fail to get upset at her for that particular offense :).

Niobe, I kinda mixed my metaphors there. I am worried about her eventual self-esteem because I anticipate her inheriting my PCOS, and all the fun side-effects that that entails, including the three things to mess with any teenage girl's mind-- pimples, facial hair, and weight gain. So I am trying to preventively make her very sure of herself. I also know about research that indicates that it is much better to praise for effort than for talent, so I am getting her to make an effort, so that I can legitimately praise her. :)

Nicole said...

Very cute! I remember when my father taught me to ride a bike. That was a very good day indeed.

Lori said...

That IS a big accomplishment of the day!! Way to go Monkey!!

I can sympathize with her completely. I mean, who likes falling? But the thrill of being able to ride a bike is well worth the risk! Now she knows that!

meg said...

Way to go Monkey!

I am not keen to take risks either--I guess I like to think things through. But I do remember learning to ride a bike (and a pony) and I don't remember ever being afraid. Maybe, the cautiousness is something you can learn later in life? So maybe she will become more of a dare devil?

Aurelia said...

I remember teaching Mac to ride a 2 wheeler, and yes, it was ALL about confidence.

He was so sure he'd fall, I had to bribe him with promises of candy and praise him to the skies just for getting on the the bike. Poor kid...but like Monkey he eventually did it.

And no this never ends. Get used to many many more activities like this!