The Life Autistic: How Could You Forget How to Ride a Bike?

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You know that phrase, “It’s like riding a bike – you never forget how?” I’m here to tell you that’s bogus. Bunk.

have forgotten how to ride a bike.

I may be exaggerating, but that there’s not a lot of membership in the Autistic Athletics Association. The spectrum life is about dealing with physical gracelessness and disinclination toward the social aspects of formal sports, athletics, etc.

Exceptional coordination and athleticism is uncommon, but even common coordination can be a challenge for us autists.

I learned to ride a compact, green Huffy bike through the neighborhood of Burke, Virginia. While I was six of seven, I can’t say I was embarrassed about that late start. I was an official biker.

Fast forward to Iceland, that winter, where my parents bought me a new Roadmaster for the “summer” rides we’d take. And by the time that season rolled around, I’d lost it.

I’d literally — in the space of a season — forgotten how to ride a bike. 

I was almost a decade away from discovering just how different I was, but this was embarrassing. Who out there just up and loses their ability to ride a bike?

People like me.

People who fight for every fiber of muscle memory. People who put in work to get to only passable levels of coordination. People who aren’t naturals at this.

I was a whopping eight years old. Young. Stupid. Stubborn. 

Stubborn enough to get back on the bike and try again. And fall. And sputter. And pedal just a bit more. And fall again.

My dad cheered me on; I reflect on it with regrets, disappointment. He shouldn’t have had to teach me twice. He should have watched me take off like any other normal eight-year-old who’d learned to ride before. But after a few hours, it came back. I wasn’t about to revert to my non-riding self.

Since it’s been over a 15 years since I last rode, some people joke about me forgetting again.

I forgot how to ride a bike once, but I learned it twice. 

And dammit, if I have to learn it alongside my daughter this time, I’ll learn it once more.



The Life Autistic: Daughters are the Best Teachers

My oldest daughter, Mo, is an absolute delight and a total scamp, all bundled in a loquacious and vivacious ginger package. She has many of my best qualities (red hair, jokes, curiosity, verbosity) and few of my worst (stubbornness, cleverness).

I’ve enjoyed being a dad and a parent to Mo (and Zo, my newest daughter). Parenthood is a job all its own, where I’ve worked hard to be a loving example, fair disciplinarian, and patient teacher. But when it comes to teaching, there’s one area where I’m the student.

My daughter teaches me more than I teach her about emotional responses. 

When people talk “autism” and “parenting,” I rarely see instances where it’s the parent who’s autistic and working to manage their neurotypical kiddos. So let me share a story from that side.

My wife was distraught, openly weeping during dinner. As she poured out a little bit of her soul through tears, I was speechless. Not from shock, surprise, but just . . . not knowing what words to say. Yet without prompting, Mo reached out, resting her hand on Mom’s knee.

“Mom, is everything OK? I’m sorry.” 

Mo is two. And already she gets it at a level that I just don’t. She amazes me.

That’s just one example from the somber side. She’s dropped plenty from a happier side, whether noticing positive changes or making a timely compliment (“Mom, I like your long, pretty eyelashes.”). I’ve had to keep notes, since I need to use these gems at some point and win back a few trays worth of brownie points.

If you need an “emotion” teacher who can lead by example, doing what humans should do, responding with real people emotions: have a daughter

How to React to Unsolicited Parenting Advice (Without Exploding!)

In my previous post, I discussed people giving parenting advice. But those lessons aren’t learned overnight.

In the meantime, you might have to endure such gems as:

“Only ten pounds at four weeks? You should start feeding her cereal.”

“I don’t see what all the fuss is about — if your newborn can sleep at night on his stomach, let him!”

“Back in my day, [insert any comment whatsoever here].”

“But where am I supposed to find castor oil?”

If I had a nickel for each time I heard things like that, I’d have a lot of nickels. But since that’s not how any of this works, here are some helpful ways to cope with unsolicited parenting advice:

Continue reading “How to React to Unsolicited Parenting Advice (Without Exploding!)”