Stop the Stressful Presents

I was scared when I got my first bike. It’s because I didn’t really want it. And it came with an expectation of having to enjoy it.

Because all other children have bikes.

Because all other children want bikes.

Because all other children enjoy riding them.

No one considered that I wasn’t like other children. Or maybe it’s exactly the opposite? Maybe they knew it very well, and in an upsurge of family love they just wanted to mould me into being like the other happy, bike-riding kids.

Regardless of the family’s honourable motives, I didn’t want a bike.

But what do you do when you’re 7? Knowing that the whole family scraped money to give you one, you can’t just say “no”. You can’t put it on gumtree or sell on ebay.

Accepting a bike came with a responsibility. It was like entering a game called “I am a normal child” where you have to learn and obey the new rules. That’s why I was scared.

By that time the fear of being “on the street” has been implanted into my 7-year old soul. “Don’t cross the road”, “look left right left”, “stop”, “wait for green”, “hold my hand” — all these, voiced no doubt out of care echoed in my head and made the world look like a hostile place where all the cars are only there to kill you.




Riding a bike on the street meant I would have to go to the street and learn all the rules. Stick to one side, signal when you turn, think when the cars go first. It didn’t matter that there were barely any cars there at all, but the prospect of angering some unknown driving adults was enough to make my hands sweat. And when they sweat it’s really hard to signal, because then you have to let go with one hand and that was on its own really scary.

It meant I would have no excuse not to go bike riding with other children who would laugh at me and my fears. I’d have to try to keep up with their fast pace and reckless riding - don’t they know the evil adults in these cars are after them? — I thought.

All these considerations passed through my head when I looked at the blue bike.

And then I did what was expected of me. Smiled, said thank you, hugged mum and gave it a try in the garden.

Stressful presents usually come from good intentions. Helping to “cure” some’s fear of heights by giving them an expensive parachute jump, helping them to relax by buying them an expensive holiday, or brightening their apartment with a plant that needs weekly leaf-maintenance.

I don’t think I got a “stressful” present lately. Now, people who I choose to be around, know me better than that.

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