Claire has figured out how to ride her bicycle without training wheels. And the process was just so... Claire. Let me explain.
Claire -- talking
Claire said her first word at around 12 months old. It was "bird" but she said something that sounded a lot more like "buh." But it was specific and said while pointing at birds, so it definitely was a word. I was pretty sure. Definitely... maybe. I thought from there she would most likely slowly add to her repertoire. Instead? Silence for three months.
Well, okay, not "silence" but no more words. Not even "bird" anymore. What happened? I must have dreamed the word "bird." Or maybe something was wrong? Then all of the sudden at about 15 months, she just started talking... and pretty much hasn't stopped since. There wasn't the "ramping up" period I expected. It was like one day she didn't talk at all and a month later she was not just saying a few words, but proficient.
For a long time she stuck with mostly one word at a time. Then all of the sudden at about 2 years old, she said her first real sentence. She started with two words, but within a couple weeks she was stringing together 4 or more words. Sometimes these days, I wish she'd go back to one or two word answers because seriously, Claire, can we just stop talking for a few minutes so I can think???
Claire -- walking
Claire went through what we called a wounded soldier crawling phase for a LONG time, finally figuring out a "normal crawl" at about 11 months. But no sign of walking. Then at just over a year old she figured out how to stand up. Like in the middle of the floor with nothing to hold onto. She would just get up and stand there until she lost her balance or got bored. But still no walking. Didn't even cruise (i.e. walk around by holding onto furniture). We spent lots of time standing her up against the couch and then trying to coax her to let go of the couch and take a step towards us, but nothin'. (Oh foolish first time parents who actually WANT their child to be mobile! Ah, the naivete!)
Until she was 15 months old. Then one day, she stood up by herself in the middle of the floor and took a few steps. A couple days later, she was walking everywhere, never using any furniture. And I really mean EVERYWHERE. She would just stand up and walk across the room and on the rare occasion that she fell, she'd just get back up from wherever she fell. Because apparently using furniture is for sissies, yo.
Claire -- reading
I didn't "do" anything to get Claire to read. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm an "involved parent" if I do say so myself. I read to her. I answered questions. I occasionally and very casually mentioned phonetics when she seemed interested. But things seemed pretty "normal" to me. I mean, kids who are super great readers usually start when they're like three, right? Or like in utero or something I'm pretty sure. Claire was four and still didn't do more than recognize environmental print or the occasional word like "BOO!" on Halloween cards. And I wasn't pushing it. But she was interested and asking about it a lot and one time I told her that when she read a whole book by herself someday I'd buy her ice cream. Wait, no, not just ice cream. An ice cream CONE!!!
Well!!! Not long after, she laboriously trudged through "Go Dog Go!" with lots of help from me. I coughed up the cone. I thought that would be kind of the end of it for awhile. Not so! She took off. She started out needing to sound out almost every word with help from me to decipher it. In about a month everything in a beginning reader book was a sight word. I think it's that she has this amazing ability to memorize. It's like she only needs to be told once what a word is and it immediately becomes a sight word. Man, I wish my brain worked like that! Seriously, do you have any idea how many hours of my life in college were lost because I had to do the subtraction from 9 times 9 AGAIN to figure out what 8 times 9 was?
And it just kept going like that. Trying to keep that child supplied with non-overly easy but not too scary books is no small task. Especially when she has a morbid curiosity but anything that might possibly be construed as spooky is way too stressful and leaves her fretful. (Note to self: buy stock in "Magic Tree House" series) (Other note to self: make sure M is the one who has to break it to her in a few weeks that she's read every.last.one. and will have to branch out *gasp*)
Which brings us to:
Claire -- bike riding
We've been trying to teach Claire to ride a bike without training wheels for awhile now.
[Side note: DO NOT get me started on the training wheels debate. It appears that M and I see eye to eye on all matters of great import save it be the evils of training wheels. I've conceded that they're fine for people like him who can just run out and try new things and have some modicum of success within the first fortnight. Claire takes after me and my "impressive" coordination. Training wheels teach people like Claire and me to ride firmly leaning to one side lest we find a way to trip on our own dorkiness.]
We made attempts at the usual running along behind the bike holding the seat. But all we had to show for it was a sore back. As soon as we would let go she'd slide her little bum over to one side of the seat and lean her body the opposite way. Not sure what the goal was there, but it usually ended in a spill. And a spill usually ended in a microscopic little superficial abrasion. And with Claire each square centimeter of abrasion warrants a full 4 hours of whining, crying, and declaring that she "can't stand it." (But those four hours can be deferred. They can be applied on an "as needed" basis to undesirable moments like non-cookie dinners and bedtime.) So we had temporarily given up on the bicycle thing several times.
Then a couple weeks ago, Claire's friend from school came over to play. She already knows how to ride a bicycle. You know, a real bicycle. The kind that, as the name suggests, actually only has TWO wheels. Watching that friend ride around on a bike, Claire was green with envy. You could see it in her eyes. This business of being one-upped was unacceptable. So she got on her bike and told me that she was going to ride a two wheeler too. She took a few minutes to figure out how to get her pedals into the appropriate orientation. And then she rode off down the sidewalk.
Since then, she hasn't fallen down once.