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Too busy to teach your child to ride a bike? Outsource it!

Aug. 31, 2012 at 8:22 AM ET

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Cherished parent-child memory, or a major time suck? Some parents are outsourcing the job of teaching kids to ride a bike.

Teaching your child to ride a bike is so passé. You may think it’s your job to teach balancing, pedaling, and breaking, but busy parents now have options.

Canadian writer Rebecca Eckler recently confessed to hiring a professional bike-riding counselor to school her daughter in the ways of training wheels and banana seats. Oh, the horror, right? What’s next — a professional Tooth Fairy and an after-school nurse to kiss boo-boos?

The future of parenting is outsourcing!

Nick Pavlakis from Vancouver, B.C.-based Pedalheads says the bicycle instruction business is booming because parents don’t have time and they lack skills. “A lot of parents come to us and they’ve tried on their own and found it to be quite a struggle.”

In Eckler’s case, squeamishness drove her to seek help. She couldn’t stand the thought of watching her kid fall, and argues in a post on Mommyish that hiring someone to teach bike riding is no different than doing the same for swimming or music. “At the end of the day, she knows how to ride a bike. End of story,” she told TODAY Moms. But her post sparked mommy judgment. Why? “I think it’s just because a lot of people don’t know something like this is available,” she said.

Bike New York offers free bike-riding programs in city parks, summer camps, and after-school programs in New York City. No one seems to be outraged about that. Communications Manager Dan Suraci says demand for instruction is huge. Their weekend classes — and the waitlist — are always full.

“Our instructors teach every weekend so they know the common problems and can easily teach to overcome those,” Suraci said. He also credits the group dynamic. “Kids have a way of relating to other kids. When they get something and are energized about it, they share with each other.”

Bike riding and big moments

Rhonda Franz of Parenting Squad is a mother of three and holds a Master's Degree in Education, specializing in early childhood development. She doesn’t think it matters who teaches a child the actual skill of riding a bike. She agrees with Pavlakis and Suraci that it's often easier for children to learn together with their peers than it is for mom or dad to teach a skill.

“We teach them so much, and they're just tired of us,” says Franz. “If another person can more effectively teach a child a skill rather than a parent, who can argue with that?”

Still, she said, it does matter who's present for that major milestone in a child's life.

“The experience creates a memory for parents and children — something they'll miss out on if it is outsourced,” Franz said. She encourages moms and dads to consider that before handing off the responsibility to someone else. 

Diane Mizota told TODAY Moms she might have hired out if she’d known she had the option, but is happy that she didn’t. As a single working mom in Los Angeles, Mizota always thought her ex-husband would be the one to teach their son to ride a bike. When that didn’t happen, she questioned whether she was up for the challenge. 

Remembering the moment she finally let go of that seat, she writes, “I'm still claiming a major mommy victory. I overcame my mental block and earned the bragging rights and discovery that there is no feeling in the world like watching your kid ride a bike for the first time.”

Parenting is not as easy as riding a bike

Parents know that teaching a child to ride a bike can be difficult. Maybe that’s because you can’t really teach them. All we can do is support them while they learn. As in all things parenting, we are powerless over what happens after we let go. Sometimes we have to watch them fall. We can’t outsource that.

But what do I know? I subcontracted the whole thing to my husband.

Lela Davidson is the author of Blacklisted from the PTA. Her writing is featured regularly in family and parenting magazines throughout the United States and Canada. She blogs about marriage, motherhood, and life-after-40 at After the Bubbly.

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