As an Occupational Therapist, I have often joked about “inflicting myself on my kids”….and as a Mom of three boys, now 19, 22, and 24, one of the things that helped me survive raising them was picking my battles.
When our oldest son was 6 years old, we were already battling dyslexia and dysgraphia, even though he was a bright boy. It frustrated him when he wanted his letters to look perfect but could not get them to look that way, and he had daily stomach aches and visits to the school nurse. When he did not have motivation or desire to ride a bicycle, and we lived on a busy street with a bumpy sidewalk, and even trips to the park did not inspire him to persevere on the bike riding, we decided not to upset him any more until he wanted to try again.
When we moved to a dead end street he was 9 years old and still had no desire to ride a bike, so we kept him active in Soccer, where he shined as a tough Defensive player who was physically very strong in spite of balance issues that OT Mom had noticed but not addressed in the bike riding arena….he was getting educational therapy in school and doing much better with school work and had decreased a lot of the anxiety that went with having a tough time writing, and was reading very well. Things were going fine and no one seemed to notice that he didn’t ride a bike. We were a busy family.
Then -it happened- at 13 he was embarrassed that he could not ride a bike, and while my husband had him out in front of our house on the street work working on it, a well meaning but insensitive neighbor came running out from watching us with her son’s old scooter, telling us that he needed to use this scooter and then his balance will be good enough to transition into bike riding. (For those of you who have watched the old 60’s TV show “Bewitched” that was our neighborhood’s version of Gladys Cravitts).
The next day when the kids were playing outside, I heard screams -and there was my son covered in blood- he had taken that scooter out figuring he should do what the neighbor had said, and had fallen on our other neighbor’s Belgium Block driveway stones, and had multiple cuts, with chunks of skin missing from his eyebrows, face, chin, upper and lower body. We had to put him in the shower to see where the cuts were before rushing him to a plastic surgeon! Needless to say, we abandoned the bike riding idea.
Through High School and then College, our oldest son did well. He worked hard and played Varsity Soccer, and even got a scholarship to be his college Soccer Team’s Manager. After graduating in May 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work, having maintained above a 3.1 GPA which caused him to become a member of a National Honor Society for college students who have overcome adversity, and he made it to the “Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges” he told me how important it was now for him to learn to ride a bicycle. However, we knew that this needed to be handled discreetly and by a professional that was not his parents!
Luckily, I had been working with Joni Redlich -for a few years and she told me about the method she uses to teach bike riding- to those who may have had a difficult time learning. Joni offered to give our son a PT session that we will be forever grateful for.
Joni met us on her day off- Sunday, September 11, 2011 in a school parking lot and discreetly and kindly taught our son how to ride a bike! Holding back tears, my husband and I sat in our Van far down across the parking lot and watched Joni’s patience and persistence, and our son’s brave tenacity. (meanwhile other people had brought their elementary age children to the same area to….ride their bikes, so Joni chose a spot on the other side of the school where there was limited traffic and less people around to view the process. ) Within 1.5 hours, our son was riding- first a few feet, and then learned to turn during the 2nd hour. He reached for something that he thought would never happen and we will all be eternally grateful to Joni for making that goal a reality.
We can never thank her enough for the professional, discreet, effective, and kind way that she taught a young adult to overcome something that held back his self esteem development because he thought there was something wrong with himself in that area since childhood, in spite of having a Mom that is an Occupational Therapist and an awesome Dad who coached his Soccer teams and always was willing to help him with anything!
As I look back at my parenting over the past 24 years, I realized that there were times that I had to let other professionals help my children where I might not be as effective. This was one of those times, but we are so thankful that Joni was there for us!!! Thank you Joni! Words cannot express our happiness!