Last weekend, I took Mazzy and Harlow to Domino Park, where they discovered a bike/skateboard park under the Williamsburg bridge. It was a skinny paved track with large bumps and sharp turns. There were tons of kids (and a few adults) at various ages and skill levels riding around all at once. Basically, a helicopter parent’s nightmare.

Initially, I thought Mazzy and Harlow were both going to do the track on their scooters (that’s how most of the little kids were riding it), but while Harlow was able to happily take off, Mazzy quickly discovered that her scooter was too low to the ground and kept getting stuck on top of the bumps.

“No problem! The park rents scooters!” I said.

But then we found out the park only rents bikes.

Mazzy looked at me with panic because she is still a biking newbie. She first rode without training wheels last summer, but has only rode a handful of times since and almost always on flat surfaces. The rental guy was encouraging though, and she decided to go for it. I tried to encourage her too, but really, I was thinking— this is going to be a disaster. Not because I thought she would get hurt. Although there was definitely that possibility too. More because I thought she wouldn’t be able to pick up enough speed to balance, get really frustrated, give up quickly and then be upset because Harlow was having a blast on scooter. I imagined her throwing her bicycle to the ground, pouting on the sidelines, making my life miserable and then sulking all the way home.

But I was only half right.

Mazzy did have a lot of trouble riding the bike. It took her awhile before she could even get started. She couldn’t find her balance. She fell numerous times. She kept starting and stopping. She got really frustrated. She rode off the track by accident. She crashed into other kids. She looked like she was going to kick the bike a few times. At one point, she almost started crying because younger kids were getting annoyed that she was slowing everyone else down.

But she did not give up.

She kept picking herself up and trying again. She even took the bike off the track and into the main park to practice pushing off and picking up speed on a flat surface. When she felt more confident, she came back. Then she did it over and over again until she finally reached her goal of going around the whole track without falling once. Then she didn’t want to leave. By the end, even the kids who were making fun of her initially were cheering her on. Harlow took a break to cheer her on too.

This was not a day that ended in a disaster, as I had feared. It was a day when Mazzy learned that perseverance pays off.

And I learned that sometimes when you sit back and watch your kid struggle, they will really surprise you. Sure, it’s a point of pride when my kids are naturally good at something. But there is no life lesson or parenting skills required for that.

I’m more proud when my kids accomplish something that was not easy for them to do.