My son, Zeb, is learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels. For some reason, I am the parent chosen to run alongside him, gripping the back of the seat in half terror, half exhaustion.

We took several popsicle breaks on the front porch one particular day. Sitting back in the rocking chairs, Zeb began to wonder if the 10 times we’d been around the yard should be enough for him to be an expert cyclist yet. I told him I thought it probably took a few months to get really good at it. He suggested we “Google it.”

Don’t you just love technology? My 7 year old tells me to “Google it” every time anything is in question.

At any rate, I did go to the Internet and I did type into the Google search engine, “How long does it take to learn how to ride a bicycle?” Most of the answers agreed it should take anywhere from a few days to weeks or even a month. However, there was one answer from Better Homes and Gardens magazine that said, “Learn how to ride a bicycle in 15 minutes.”

Zeb shouted, “Click on that!”

Poor thing. He hasn’t learned not to believe everything you read on the Internet, even if the source is Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

We read the article and it suggested aiming the child down a small hill. I don’t know if the writers at Better Homes and Gardens magazine are familiar with East Tennessee but the definition of “small hill” is definitely subjective.

We grabbed the bike and the sister and we headed out to the horse pasture. We found what I thought was a suitable hill. I reminded Zeb how to use the brakes and I told him not to pedal but just coast down the hill.

He got on the bike and like the guy about to be shot out of the cannon, he gave one nod to me and one to his sister. I grabbed the seat and gave a mighty push. He was off!

I suppose Better Homes and Gardens magazine did have it partly right. For about 10 seconds, Zeb was riding that bike down that hill like a champion BMX rider. However, at some point, panic set in and he forgot all about steering.

We were out in the horse pasture, as I said, and the horses were out there with us. They had been grazing peacefully but curiosity got the best of them and they followed us out to the hill to see what was going on. They watched quietly from one side of the fence as the boy with the yellow hair on the blue bicycle flew past on the other.

The boy was not quiet. He was yelling.

He hit the fence.

The blue bicycle flew up in the air.

It landed on the boy with a thud.

The horses looked on for a moment and then went back to grazing, as if this might happen every day in their pasture. Two deer jumped up out of some underbrush and ran for their lives, no doubt afraid of blue bicycles and boys with yellow hair for the rest of their lives.

The sister ran to the boy, who was screaming, “I broke my leg! I broke my leg!” In less time than it took him to crash, she pulled the bike up off her brother.

I stood motionless at the top of the hill, wondering if the brand-new, just-home-from-the-store, shiny-blue bicycle had been busted beyond repair. I knew Zeb was fine because he was yelling and thrashing around. Broken legs don’t kick like he was kicking. Before you call child services on me, I did go down and check on the boy. I even got him some Bactine, Neosporin and Band-Aids.

I will say this, I learned that both that bicycle and that boy can take a hard lick.

We did get back on the bicycle that night, without training wheels. After crashing into my poor snowball bush a few times, Zeb made it almost all the way around the yard before we called it a night.

Following a hot shower that stung bruised cuts and scrapes, Zeb went to bed saying he couldn’t wait to ride that bicycle the next day. He did say he was through with Google though.

Melissa Kinton is a stay-at-home mom. She is currently rearing one son, one daughter, one cat, two rabbits, two dogs, two horses, and one husband. She may be reached at melissagkinton@gmail.com.

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