On a warm afternoon last spring, I stood on the sidewalk in front of my house with hands on hips as I bargained with my kindergartener. His dark eyes squinted, boring into mine with all the intensity and fire he could muster. He planted his hands firmly on his own hips, mocking my stance. We were arguing over how to enjoy the beautiful afternoon. I wanted him to give his bike another try. He had shown little interest in learning to ride a bike. I thought it was time he learn. But he wanted to go to the playground.
“Just one lap around the block, then we’ll head to the playground,” I pleaded.
He shook his head and thrust his lower lip out dramatically. “I will never ride a bike ever ever ever! If you make me ride a bike, it will slowly but surely kill me.” Yes, this is actually what he said. Well, well.
“Riding a bike is sort of like swimming, a life skill. Everyone should know how. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you should at least know how to do it.”
It came down to fear. When I pressed him for more, he said he was nervous about falling off the bike.
“See these training wheels?” I said, pointing. “These are here so you won’t fall off. C’mon. Let’s give it a try. Just one block. I know you can do it. Show me you can do it.”
He reluctantly agreed to ride the bike on the condition that I stay close behind him, holding the back of the bike. He began nervously pushing one pedal then the other. The bike was heavy, making it difficult to get going. He rose from the saddle to exert more weight on one foot and as he did, his body shifted to one side. The front wheel turned and before either of us could do a thing about it, he was on the ground with the bike on top of him. The howling began before he even hit the pavement.
“I knew I’d fall! You said I wouldn’t fall! You said you would stay behind me! I’m never riding a bike again!” he shouted at me, pointing his finger in my direction to make sure I knew whose fault this was.
Of course, I felt terrible. I’d said he wouldn’t fall. I had reassured him and told him I’d be there. For this, I was sorry. But he was going to have to get back on that bike. I resisted the urge to apologize profusely. I thwarted the desire to take the easy route, to throw in the towel and try again another day. I steeled myself for what was to come.
“You are tougher than that silly old bike,” I told him. “Dust yourself off and let’s get back on. Show that bike who’s boss!”
He looked at me as if I had lost my marbles. He cried harder, louder. This approach wasn’t going to work.
“Look, here’s the thing. You can’t let this bike get the best of you. If you don’t get back on it, you’re giving up. You’re saying the bike is bigger, stronger, better than you. That’s not true, right? So let’s take it down to the end of the block and settle the score. You? One! Bike? Nada! Zilch.”
His little face was a puffy mess of salty tears and a river of snot. It was heartbreaking. Inside, I wanted to retreat, to go in the house and get out the LEGOS. But I couldn’t do that. I begged him. He shook his head in refusal, turning his back to me. I gently took his arm and led him back toward the bike.
“No no no no noooooo!” he wailed. I picked him up, no small feat given the kicking legs and bucking back. I apologized over and over in my head but said nothing as I positioned him back on the seat of the bike. By now the sobbing had turned into full body heaves of despair and betrayal.
“Don’t….make….me….ride….” he blubbered, catching shallow breaths between words and tearing at my heart strings. I bit my lip and persevered.
By now, you are probably wondering a few things. What does this story of learning to ride a bike have to do with the banana almond butter muffins pictured here? You are also probably wondering why, after my colossal baking disaster last week, I’m baking for the second week in a row? The answer is simple. I had to get back on that proverbial bike. I couldn’t let the oven (or the sugar or the chocolate or the stand mixer or whatever was to blame for my flubbed brownies) get the best of me. Before I carry out my vow not to bake again for another year, I first had to settle the score.
These moist, healthy muffins were a smash hit. I followed the recipe with just a few minor adjustments. And it worked. The muffins were gobbled heartily by adults and children alike. Ahhh, that’s better. Now I can go back to making soups and chicken and things that don’t threaten my self-confidence and sap my will to live. In case you’re wondering, my son still has no interest in the bike. He’s now seven. And that’s okay because I don’t have much interest in baking. But at least we know where we stand.