Tag Archives: perseverance

A Change of Pace

Learning to ride a bike is a childhood milestone and all children enjoy riding bikes.  Many people believe that statement to be true but I am not one of them.  Yes I, somewhat unwillingly, learned to ride a bike when I was about 6 years old. My younger sister was already a bike expert speeding around the neighbourhood and my father was insistent that I would learn too.

With an awful lot of coaxing I eventually did manage to wobble around on a bike but I never really enjoyed the experience.  Every time my sister got a new bigger, fancier bike she was thrilled.  My father would offer to get me one too – ‘Please don’t’ I would say – but he did.  Maybe he was hoping some day I would be ‘normal’ but probably he just didn’t realize that my quiet demeanor hid the torture I felt when forced to ride a bike.

I have very few fond childhood memories of bike riding excursions.  I do remember crashing, falling, and jumping off my bike.  Yes, there were many, many times that I purposely chose to jump off a moving bicycle because landing in a ditch seemed to be a better choice than staying on the seat.

A friend recently suggested maybe I don’t like things with wheels – she knows I don’t enjoy driving a car either.  I do drive – when I have to (and I’m much better at driving a car than riding a bike) – but I’ll never turn down a ride if someone else wants to drive.  Likewise, if walking is an option, I will always choose to walk.  I think maybe I feel so uncomfortable when driving or riding because I am disconnected from the earth.

In the last few years my husband has begun to join me on hiking adventures – this has been wonderful because he is willing to drive to distant trails that I have not had to opportunity to explore before.  Often on our hikes he would remark ‘This would be a great trail to bike on if you had a bike’ and I would reply ‘No,no it would not’. *Shudder*

My husband enjoys biking much more than hiking so eventually I relented and agreed to get a bike so we could occasionally go biking together.  He was much more excited than I was, checking out all the store flyers and bike displays, pointing out various features of each model.  My main concern was ensuring I’d still be able to touch the ground when I was on the bike.

Finally he picked one out and went to get it on his day off work.  I was in the back yard with the children when he came home and unloaded it from the car.  As he wheeled it through the yard all the children oohed and awed and excitedly asked ‘Cheryl, whose bike is that?’ ‘Mine’ I replied without much enthusiasm.  ‘Are you going to ride it?’  ‘Not right now.’  It had been more than 25 years since I last rode a bike. They say you don’t forget how to ride but I had my doubts especially since I was never very good at it and I’ve tried very hard to forget.

Later that week I tried a few practice rides up and down our back lane – cue fits of laughter.  When I reached the end of the lane I got off the bike, picked it up and turned it around to head back.  My husband/coach yelled down the lane ‘You don’t need to get off to turn around, the lane is wide enough, just keep pedaling and turn the wheel.’  Seriously? I would need the lane to be four times that wide before I’d make it all the way around without falling. 😛

On the weekend we packed the bikes in to the van to drive to a nice, paved, car-free bike path.  I think I did a bit better. There were only a few times that considered jumping off and even then I just put my feet on the ground and skidded to a stop.  Yes, sometimes when I panic I forget the bike has brakes.

Periodically my husband/coach would point out something interesting in the area surrounding the trail.  I’d reply, ‘Can’t look, trying to stay upright’.  Sometimes he’d suggest something new for me to ‘try’ – like standing on the pedals etc.  ‘Nope, don’t want to die today’.

It’s frustrating, I imagine that is how children feel when asked to move on to the next new skill/task when they just want to continue at the level they are currently at for a little longer.  What’s the rush, they’ll move on when they decide they are ready.  Pushing too hard or too soon might make them quit completely.

My bike ride was certainly not a stellar performance.  In fact, even my FitBit failed to recognize it as anything. It will auto-recognize a trip around the block at toddler speed as a ‘walk’.  It will auto-recognize a walk with a stroller as an ‘outdoor bike ride’. However, my first afternoon bike excursion left it confused – it had no idea what to call that.  A three-year-old, without training wheels, stopped his bike on the side of the trail to watch me -silently.  Other people I’m certain went home with stories to tell their friends and family.

Still, I rode my new bike on my terms – when, where, and how I wanted and most importantly, I will do it again.  I will never be an expert rider.  Biking on trails will never replace hiking on trails but it is an interesting change of pace.

 

Motabular

It began as a conversation through the tunnel – something they have enjoyed often in the past.  In fact, this first picture was taken last year when they were all a little smaller and ‘fit’ on the bridge;

Now they are taller so they hang further off the edge and sometimes even rest their hands or heads on the gravel below.  Then one day a few weeks ago the four-year-old held onto the underside of the bridge and then brought his legs up and over until he flipped over off the bridge.  It was like a slow motion summersault except he never let go of the bridge and he landed on his feet.  The entire movement was controlled and precise.  I was impressed and judging by the response from the other children, they were too.

The five-year-old announced that it had been the ‘most amazing motabular’ that she had ever seen.  The name stuck and for weeks since then ‘doing motabulars’ has been a popular activity for these preschoolers. None of the other children have been able to master holding the bridge while completing the flip like this;

Some have modified the feat to fit their own comfort level – taking acceptable risk – understanding their physical abilities.  They rest their hands on the ground and then roll forward and bring their legs off the bridge and into the gravel.

One day the four-year-old announced his satisfaction with the ‘motacular’ that he had just done. The others stopped what they were doing and asked “What is a motacular?”  He replied that it was “A spectacular motabular”.  Love it!

The girl had successfully completed several motabulars but much preferred the role of ‘judge’ – rating the completion of each motabular.  This annoyed the oldest child in the group – the only one who had never yet been able to complete the ‘flip’ part.  Sometimes he would roll sideways off the bridge and down the slope of the hill.  Other times he would walk forward on his hands and then pull his knees up and drop down to the gravel without ever turning over.

Each time he received an ‘Almost’ or ‘Not quite’ rating from the judge. “Put your hands closer to the hill” the others said “You can’t flip when you are that far away” They were trying to be helpful but it just aggravated the situation. “Motabulars are STUPID! He shouted as he stomped away.  He refused to try again.

Every time the others practiced their motabulars he would sit and pout – muttering about how dumb that activity was.  Sometimes he’d try to start a game of tag or a building project – anything to get the others to stop doing motabulars.  But they didn’t stop.

One day ‘the judge’ was absent. As soon as we went outside the younger two boys started doing motabulars.  The older one stood close by and watched.  After the others had several turns he made his first attempt of the day.  He adjusted his stance a few times before crawling down without rolling.  He tried to create some different poses and movements to entice the others to do something different.  He tried again to do a motabular;

This time he attempted a roll but went sideways instead of over.  He was visibly frustrated.  He criticized his own roll, talking out loud to himself, trying to make sense of what he was doing wrong.  No one else said anything – no one made any type of judgement – and he went back to try again.  He was persistent.  After another failed attempt he spent some time again watching the others very closely;

Asking for and getting advice and assistance when he wanted it;

Then it happened;

He rejoiced – strutting around the yard singing a new song. “Motabulars are awesome. Motabulars are great.  I can do motabulars!”  He continued to do more and more of them for the rest of the day.

Interestingly he hasn’t done one since the judge came back.  In fact, he hasn’t tried to do one when she is near.  He has made a few attempts when she is busy elsewhere but he is obviously concerned that she may notice.  He quietly talks to himself, analyzing the situation, fully aware of where she is and what she is doing.  Not trying in case she notices when he fails.

That is the power of grades and rewards.  They destroy the intrinsic motivation and the perseverance.  They put the emphasis on someone else’s evaluation of the outcome intead of the effort it takes to try and fail and try again.  Even when the reward is meant to be an encouragement it is ultimately still a judgement.

Right or Left?

I watched with amusement as my teenage son attached his camera to the tripod.  I wasn’t the trial and error method he used to accomplish the task or the way he talked to himself as he tried to figure it out that amused me. It was my husband’s growing frustration that made me laugh.

You see, my son’s dilemma may be hereditary.  I know the rhyme ‘Righty tighty, lefty loosey’.  I also know that I should turn something clockwise to tighten and counter clockwise to loosen but, when I am actually turning something I sometimes have difficulty associating the thought with the action.  I think it is a problem with hand/eye/brain communication.

Maybe I over think it.  Staring at the screw/knob or whatever it is — my hand poised over it – pretending to turn it first one way, then the other.  I am distracted by my husband’s exasperation when he can’t tolerate it any longer.

“Turn it right” he says “Clockwise”

“I know”

“Then do it!” he says, louder this time.

“I’m thinking” I reply, “And you’re not helping”

Tentatively I try turning it

“The other way!!!!” he yells “Don’t you know right from left?”

“Yes, but I’m thinking that although I’m turning it to the right, if I turned the whole assembly over and looked at it from the bottom, the same motion would be turning it to the left – so I could be loosening it.”

My husband is speechless – he looks like he might be having a stroke.

Back to my son and his camera – he starts turning the knob on the tripod but then hesitates.

“That’s right – correct” my husband acknowledges.

The boy replies “but I’m holding it upside down so I should turn it left”

I burst out laughing.  My husband is annoyed – possibly jealous that he can’t relate.

Anyway, in the workshop area of the playroom I have this;

I thought it would be a great tool for the children to develop eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills.

Every once in a while someone will get one of the nuts tightened at the top or bottom of the threaded rod.  They’ll ask me how to loosen it.  In response I will tell them to turn it the opposite direction to what they had been turning it.  They are usually pretty good at understanding opposites.  They’re preschoolers – they still have some difficulty with right and left or clockwise and counter clockwise.  I could teach them the rhyme but I don’t think it would help – either of us.

I think it is better to let them figure it out themselves.  Try something new, make mistakes and try again – without interference.  Right or left, tighten or loosen, correct or wrong.  It doesn’t matter. They are practicing and they will discover a method that works for them.

The knowledge, the grade on the written test, doesn’t matter without the opportunity to use it.  What is important is the ability to figure something out.  To learn from mistakes.  To practice.  To persevere.  To face a problem and conquer it.  That’s something you can’t do if you’re worried about being wrong — worried about pleasing the observer.