Life Lessons of Learning to Ride a Bike (Part II)

Who knew what a wealth of life lessons teaching your kid to ride a bike would provide?

(Who knew, actually, what a wealth of life lessons parenting, in general, would offer. Not me! Can I have my money back? Just kidding… sorta…)

Three years ago, I remarked on the magical moment of “letting go” a parent and child both experience when the child finally decides to ride a bike solo.

But what about when a child approaches an unexpected corner, a little too fast, and starts to careen around and down a steep hill?

What about when said child starts to scream, “MOMMY – I CAN’T STOP!” and said mommy is a good three blocks away, completely incapable of doing anything but watching and screaming back?

Yup.

Unexpected life lessons. 

Thank you, bike.

This lesson ended happily, without injury, but with a harsh wake up call for mom and son.

There will be times when I simply cannot help him.

There he was — the seven year old, the one who tends to need me the most — screaming in panic for help.

Far away, I watched the bite-size version of him descend the steep hill in our neighborhood. I didn’t even run. I knew instantly there was nothing I could do to protect him; to keep him from heading full-speed on his brand new bike onto the prospect of oncoming traffic (worst case scenario) or a major wipe out on the concrete (best case scenario).

In slow motion, I took in my surroundings. My daughter behind me, stopped atop her own bike, watching the scene play out. Another parent, to my far left, previously relaxing on his back porch reading the newspaper, now standing — also concerned and also powerless. There in the distance … my son.

What would happen?

How would it all end?

And then …

Time stopped. Or my heart stopped. Or they both did.

Most important,he stopped. He found the strength to stop.

On his own.

Later, when I reached him, he would tell me how scared he was; he would tell me about his own moment of realization — that mommy couldn’t possibly come to his rescue; that he would indeed need to help himself.

He told me that in that very moment he said to himself, “You can do it. You have to.”

I told him that I had said the very thing in my own mind. This was the message I sent to him from too far away.

In that moment, we both let go of each other.

Understood that this was something that had to happen sooner or later.

This letting go. This not-so-blind trust in the process.

This love. This faith.

This long distance relationship.

oliver rides

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3 thoughts on “Life Lessons of Learning to Ride a Bike (Part II)

  1. I thought it would get easier with practice—the letting go part. In part it does and in a way it gets much more difficult and the powerlessness becomes a gulf that cannot be crossed. My 20 year old son (the one who for years couldn’t fall asleep without me) came home with a super fast motorcycle. There is a physical squeeze that I feel in my being and heart every time I hear that thing leave the driveway.

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  2. Great piece, Jen. Learning to ride a bike without training wheels is one of the most formative moments a kid can have.

    A tip I wished I knew when I was learning to bike was to “avoid looking at dicey passageways”. The more I was afraid of the bike tumbling down a particularly steep part of the road, the more the bike seemed to veer towards that part of the road. What I should’ve done was stop worrying and focus on where I wanted to go.

    You son has done just that. I wish him good luck! 😀

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