My actions embarrassed my son and made him cry on his bike, right there in the middle of the street.
All things considered, I thought he needed me to prod him with the intensity like a football coach. It turns out he needed me to be more like a horse whisperer.
All things considered, I was tired of being a horse whisperer.
Right or wrong, my wife and I have allowed it. He's ridden around the neighborhood instead on his "Green Machine" (note the quotes).
I recently explained to him that enough was enough, and we were going to get out together and ride bikes until he felt confident on it. Even before we headed out to the garage, he started telling me how difficult this was going to be. He chose to wear winter gloves in case he fell.
I knew he was scared. I thought I knew what he needed to overcome it.
So I took a leap out of my usual approach and character and began to embody a football coach persona. "Let's go, no excuses," I barked. When he would stop and explain why this would just never work out, I replied, "Enough of this, get on that bike and start peddling. Now. NOW. NOW!"
Again, not my finest moment in parenting. I know there is a place for being firm, but what I started to realize is I was using this "firm opportunity for parenting" (note the quotes) to actually vent other frustrations of my life into my kid.
I realized it when I was so angry at the seventh time we'd stopped that I slammed my bike down and walked over to him and he was crying in the middle of the street.
We finished the ride, went home and debriefed. I first justified my actions by explaining he needed me to be firm.
Then an hour later, I was near him again - asking him to forgive me for handling it wrong.
I explained, "Even if that's what you needed, I didn't tell you I was going to take that tone with you. Even more, I let some anger out that had nothing to do with you."
He nodded. He put his hand on mine.
I continued, "Will you give me a chance to get this right again tomorrow? Can I reset with you somehow on this?"
And he let me. And we did. And I was the horse whisperer he needed.
Four days in a row of biking later, my son and I came across some deer who literally bolted in front of us as we rode. He and I stopped together and watched them for ten minutes, saying nothing out loud but enjoying the moment together. Later that night he said, "Dad, I'm so glad you made me to get on my bike this week. I feel like God gave us that time with the deer today as a special gift just for us."
I was thankful, but again had to apologize. "Buddy, I'm so sorry I handled things wrong on the first day. Maybe by you seeing me fail, though, you'll learn how to handle it when you fail someday. We all will. Thanks for giving me a second chance to try again... for getting back on the bike."
I know the story doesn't always end like this.
I also know sometimes that has more to do with how easy it is for us to not admit we were wrong as parents.
But we are... sometimes... often.
When have you felt the strength of admitting you were weak?
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)