I've always told my kids, "If you don't have a few skinned knees, bruises, bug bites, sunburns, scrapes, and scratches - you're not having a childhood, let alone having any fun at it." We planted a maple tree in our front yard, hoping it would grow with William so that when he was ready to try tree climbing, he'd have a tree with good, strong, well-spaced branches. But for some reason, neither of my kids took to riding bikes until late in childhood - or early in their adolescence. I don't know which of us was more nervous when William's Scout troop decided that October's camp-out would involve biking around Lake Somerville. He didn't even own a bike; he'd outgrown his first one without ever riding it.
We bought another, and it sat in the living room for a few weeks. He didn't want the neighbors to see him struggling to learn. Hurricane Ike didn't help matters much. But time waits for no man (or boy) and this weekend was the camp-out. For a while, it looked like there wouldn't be enough drivers to get all the boys there and back; William admitted he wouldn't be heartbroken to give up his place if need be. I'd already told the scoutmaster and one of the older boys that he didn't ride, and knew it was no big deal. But they had enough seats and seatbelts, and off he went on Friday looking reasonably well resigned to his fate. He looked like he might even have a good time.
Turns out the trails were sandy and a challenge for even the experienced riders. But William stayed back at the campsite with one of the adults and practiced riding until he got it. When we got back home, he immediately took the bike for a spin. Turns out biking's a whole lot easier on asphalt than on grass, sand, dirt, or gravel. He rode until he was flushed; he fell and scraped his knee, but that was nothing - he was having a blast. There's just no stopping him now.
"Hit the showers," I told him. He had dirty rivers of sweat coursing down his ruddy cheeks and forehead, blood and dirt caked on one knee, enough bites to mimic a rash on the backs of both calves, and the happiest grin I've ever seen on his face.