I don't know what it's like to win the lottery but I can guess. I imagine that in the first instant I would look on in stunned disbelief. Then I would check and re-check to make sure there was no mistake. Only then I would jump up and down, hoot and holler and then call my husband to share the news.
"Call me back as soon as you get this message," was what I said to the voice mail system at his office last Friday. Then I waited 10 minutes, couldn't stand it anymore and called him back. This time he answered the phone. "You'll never believe what your incredibly wonderful, amazing, middle child just did," I teased. Normally, in a conversation like this we would spend the next five minutes ruling out a wide variety of feats that might include walking on the moon and deep sea diving with Bert and Ernie. But this time, Nik threw out the correct answer on the third try: "Oliver rode his bike."
Yes. Oliver rode his bike.
We are a family that spends a lot of time on our bikes. But now that Oliver is too big to ride in his bike seat (he weighs over 40lbs!) we have been working hard to help him get the hang of peddling his tricycle.
Last fall we spent many back-breaking hours walking, stooped-over, next to him showing him how to make the peddles work. But the moment we let go he stopped moving. So this spring we bought him a new bike, without the pedal-breaks, and changed tactics a bit. Using raisins as a reinforcer, we rewarded him any time he got the pedals to make the slightest bit of movement. Still, he couldn't seem to figure out that he needed to push his feet, first one, then the other, to get the pedals to work. To the outsider it might have looked like he wasn't even trying, but I kept thinking about all the complicated electrical impulses involved in peddling a bike and reminded myself that lack of movement didn't necessarily mean lack of effort.
And then, for whatever reason, he just did it. He peddled the bike all the way across the front porch, followed by the sound of stunned disbelief, thunderous applause and exuberant hoots and hollers!
Then he got off the bike, without any acknowledgement that he had done anything extra special, and went on to the next thing. Jennifer, the ABA therapist who was there that afternoon, just laughed and said, "I guess he just decided it was time to ride the bike."
There have been many moments like this in our life with Oliver, but few of them as astounding as the bike incident. We -- Oliver's parents, his therapists and teachers -- work everyday towards helping him achieve certain goals. Sometimes progress is gradual and we can track it over time; but sometimes it is like a light goes on and there! He's done it.
We spent a lot of time with Oliver and his new tricycle on the sidewalk in front of our little green house this weekend. Oliver peddled in fits and starts without a raisin in sight. And Nik and I both walked around feeling like we'd just won the lottery. Only better.