“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain
It’s amazing what your kid can learn, especially when the knowledge comes from others. Sure, my five year-old son is watching and absorbing a vast array of my own unfortunate behaviors — some of my more colorful language for example. But as soon as I rightfully took his training wheels off in an effort to teach him to ride a bicycle, he looked me straight in the eye with a “you’re unqualified for this” stare. And I’m concerned he might be right.
As a result of our modest progress, I signed him up for a “Biking Class for Kids” with a local shop. On the subject of removing his pedals to first perfect his balance, perhaps he would trust Cindy, the professional mountain biker he met just three minutes ago, more than me.
“You become a parent thinking you’ll teach your kids, but you soon discover they are the ones doing the teaching.” – The best advice my dad ever gave me (outside of how babies are made)
The bike class occurred the day before his very first day of kindergarten. Life transitions abound. The thing no one tells you when you become a parent is how vulnerable you will become. How emotional you are when all your childhood fears and traumas of youth spill out. Your heart aches for what is ahead, as you can only protect them from so much.
“Dad, what if I crash?”
“Well, sometimes that might happen. But it’s how you’ll learn to become a better rider,” I explain.
We buy a set of elbow and knee pads.
“Dad, I’m scared of crashing.”
“That’s okay… that’s normal. I was okay after I crashed in that race. Remember?” Come to think of it, I wasn’t.
“Then can I get some gloves like you, Dad?”
After quite a search for the right size, we buy a pair of gloves with flames on them.
“You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.” – Grandma from the 1989 film, Parenthood
“Put on your helmet,” I remind him for the seventh time. A lucky number.
He builds up some speed, my hand on his back. His feet on the rotating pedals now. A gentle push.
The letting go.
He rides on his own about 30 feet down the sidewalk, loses his balance and topples hard on the concrete.
My heart skips a beat.
How we recover from the crashes in our life make us who we are. I’m at once terrified, proud and excited to see what he does next.
Photo by Adrienne O’Keefe.