This is FarmWife's middle child, who recently turned seven. Yes, she asked for a bike for her birthday. Yes, she got a bike for her birthday. She has asked for a bike a handful of times in her life, and she has asked for a muleback ride at least three dozen times. This is because muleback rides are better.
Mules whoa when you speak. There is no backwards peddling or hand-brake grabbing involved. There is no muscular effort required at all, really. None except that required to exhale and sit heavily in the saddle.
Mules go when you cluck. A squeeze might encourage me—there is no pumping of the pedals up and down. When there's a hill to surmount, a mule surmounts it himself. The rider simply aids him, lifting her weight off his spine and centering himself over his shoulders as he goes.
When you hug a mule, he hugs you back. He wraps his head and neck around your shoulder, and he squeezes your torso between his neck and jowl. When you hug a bike, you get a pedal or a handle bar in the sternum and some grease, if you're unlucky, on your good white blouse. A finger stuck, if you're even unluckier, between the spokes.
Mules provide a diversion in between rides. They bray for you, they play with you, they bat their big brown eyes and whuffle fondly when you're passing by. Bikes sit, sulking, and ignore you. You call to them—"hello, my two-tired friend!"—and they stand sullen and silent. Call to a mule, and he'll call back. "I love you too!"
I won't begrudge the child her bicycle, but I will tell her this—when you get tired of being ignored, dear girl, you come see me, Fenway Bartholomule. I'll give you a ride you'll truly enjoy.