When my son was five years old, my wife and I attempted to teach him how to ride a bike without training wheels. I say attempted because he was a hard case. My son had a flare for the dramatics. We called him the sheriff as he would consistently point out whatever you were doing wrong with a sort of Shakespearean rebuke of word and gesture. He was also bullheaded about everything, almost militant. But he was also a fun child, always wearing some sort of costume and forever in make believe. All this made a perfect dramatic soup, if you will. For example, when he were in a moment of despair, be it injury or mental anguish, he would dramatically toss his body upon the ground and cry out with such conviction you couldn’t help but applaud. So, there we were, attempting to teach him how to ride a bike minus the training wheels.
Naturally, the boy fell a few times. Nothing serious, a few minor drops. He was still on board with the idea of careening down a street with nothing but two wheels and steel underneath him. I kept encouraging him and telling him that there was freedom in bike riding, that all the kids in the neighborhood had bikes, and that it was the best thing he could ever do with his life. Then it happened. He biffed and he biffed hard. We’re talking dirt, gravel and grass. He flailed around like a dying fish, crying out his woes for humanity. His heart was a tiny Hindenburg bursting into flames, taking all his hopes and dreams with it. That was the end of it. He wanted nothing to do with bike riding ever again. It was stupid.
Revenge of the Sith
I introduced my son to Star Wars as early as possible. It was big when I was a boy and I looked forward to sharing it with him. He took to the magical world of Jedis and Siths and droids and Stormtroopers and Wookies with such little effort, it was as if he were born to be a fan. We wore out the VHS copies of the original trilogy and when the first two prequels came out on DVD, he devoured them. So, when Revenge of the Sith was released in theaters, it was a big deal. He was old enough to see Star Wars on the big screen for the first time. It was all he talked about. He couldn’t stand the wait. My son was in a constant pee pee dance. I’m not exaggerating. He would get so excited that I would have to ask him if he needed to go to the bathroom. He didn’t, but man, that’s an excitement I wish I still had. But, there was still the issue of the bike.
I don’t know about you, but I thought it almost criminal if my child didn’t know how to ride a bicycle. His sister could and she was the clumsiest little girl I’ve ever known. Yet, somehow, the concept escaped him. No, that’s not right. He understood the concept. What he had was a bad case of the can’ts.
He was held back by fear. You know the fear I’m talking about. The fear of injury, the fear of disappointment, the fear of people making fun of you, the fear of failure. This was a defining moment in his life and he didn’t even know it. And it was up to me to lead him through it. This was his hero’s journey, his reconciliation and acceptance off the power of the Force. This was his destiny. So, I did what any good dad would do. I told him that he couldn’t see Star Wars until he learned how to ride a bike.
This is one of my favorite memories of him as a little boy. Obviously, he was very upset by this new contingency and if he had a jury of his peers to argue before, I’m sure they would have rendered a favorable verdict on his behalf. But, alas, he was alone and I was a hard judge. The question “Why?” was asked repeatedly, as I recall. Also, it wasn’t fair, according to the sheriff. Eventually, he accepted his fate and with tears streaming down his face and wailing like a fire engine, this little boy rode his bike in a circle for a half-hour in the driveway, never falling not even once. Little did he realize how strong the Force was in him. I wish I would have videotaped it.
The Force is also strong in you. I think it was Henry Ford who said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t. Not even you.