Biking On His Own Terms: A Pushy Mom’s Lament

For more than a year, my son’s mountain bike has sat untouched in our garage. Brand-new 15 months ago, it screams at me in mute reproach every time I walk by. As dust settles on the seat, I take it personally. For if nothing else, this unloved bike is a testimony to my parenting failure.

Fresh off a family mountain bike weekend in May 2010, we rewarded our younger son with a new mountain bike. His old one had small wheels and as we watched him pedal his heart out, we thought that a bigger bike would be easier for him to ride. We assumed he’d enjoy mountain biking even more if his bike fit better. We were wrong.

Happy son. Angry son. Not feeling the love on the MTB. 2010

But I Don’t Want A New Bike

When we walked into the shop to purchase his new bike, he told us not to. “Don’t waste your money. I don’t need a new bike,” he advised us. We ignored him. When we took the bike home, he told us he’d never ride it. And with the exception of 2-3 sullen, misguided, and forced-by-mom rides, the mountain bike has sat idle. His road bike? That’s a different story. He’s all over the road bike.

The big question of course, isn’t “What is wrong with this kid?” It might be, “What is wrong with these parents?” But I think the better question is, “What happened between the a great weekend of family biking fun and the day we bought him a new bike?” The answer: Fear. The cause: An accident. The back story: Pushy parents.

Why he thinks MTB is "stupid," he's all over road biking. His terms, right?

I Love It. You Should Too.

Like most parents, we are thrilled beyond reason when our children show enthusiasm for an activity we enjoy. With skiing, we started our kids young and had low expectations. They’d ask for hot chocolate, they would get hot chocolate. They’d tire after two runs, we would rest and read books with them in the lodge. We had our eyes on the prize. We knew deep in our souls that we must be a skiing family. We had the patience and wisdom to let our kids set the pace, until of course, they could outpace us.

Biking was different. Our older son took his time learning to ride a bike. Once he got the knack of balancing and pedaling, he took off and has never looked back. He’s now an accomplished mountain biker. Our younger son was a natural. Riding a bike came easy. His biggest challenge was chasing down his brother and trying to keep up. Consequently, he got in over his head on mountain bike trails. Finally, on a ill-fated Saturday afternoon he had a scary accident. A week later we bought him a new bike that he didn’t want.

On His Own Terms

Last weekend, our son quietly pulled his mountain bike out and rode around by himself, building dirt and rock jumps and zooming off of them. On recent afternoons he’s ridden around the desert in our neighborhood — by himself. We’re not saying a word.

Mountain biking is on his terms this time. He can ride his mountain bike or not. He can like to mountain bike or not. I’ve learned my lesson. When, and if, he’s decides he’s ready for more family mountain biking, he’ll come to us. Until then, I’m satisfied that his bike is dirty, not dusty.

Originally published at on September 19, 2011.

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  1. says

    You’ve got to love a kid that tells you, “don’t waste your money.” He’s a guy who knows what he does and doesn’t want. This will serve him well in the future. Bravo for learning when to step back and just let it go.