Taking Off the Training Wheels
Grandson Aiden has had his snazzy new bike for more than two weeks now. While he looks tiny perched on it, it was definitely time to move up in size to a 20”. His old bike had fallen apart, so he had commandeered brother Peter’s red trike. It was comical to watch our kindergartener careening down the street on the small tricycle, pedaling like mad. At one point Aiden rode right into the side of a parked car and fell over (no damage to car or cyclist). It looked for all the world like the recurring gag from Laugh-In where Arte Johnson kept crashing into things while riding a trike, and I was reminded how far humor has come since 1968.
While still on Bike #1, Aiden’s training wheels had come off. It was a magic moment—suddenly he could balance all on his own. Another step towards being a big kid, and my grandson was ecstatic. I recalled my kids’ special firsts: Evan climbing the kitchen doorjamb for the first (not last) time while watching me make dinner. Evan climbing through the window between the screened porch and the living room in our summer cottage in Lewes. Evan climbing…well, you get the idea. Like all of his sibs, Ev was eager to get going on this wonderful thing called independence.
I too had yearned to grow up, as I was not a happy child. I imagined the rosy life I would lead as an adult, free from schoolwork, jetting around in my private plane (paid for by a fabulous job, of which I only had the vaguest vision). But even early on, my attempts at doing things by myself were shaky. I never even became a bike rider, much less a pilot. Sports were a slowly unfolding nightmare (I only learned to catch a ball because it was needed for a play I was in—in my mid-twenties!) Bottom line: I wanted independence and mastery of the grown-up world, without knowing how to prepare myself for it.
It didn’t help that my sisters and I were raised so haphazardly. I look at a mama bird tenderly feeding her young, gently nudging them from the nest at precisely the right moment. My mama’s feeding process: “Hungry? There’s the kitchen. I’m on the phone.” As for readying us for flight, at some random point our nest just tipped over and we were left to fly, or to plummet.
As a result, I hesitated to remove my kids’ training wheels, probably for far too long. But they managed to grow up anyway, as children are wont to do. These days, I’m trying to focus on Aiden and Peter’s joy as they learn new skills. I can’t stop them from falling off their bikes, but I can be here to kiss the boo-boos. As I watch them wobble, then soar, I know that this is the essence of parenting (and grandparenting too): get them going, then let them go. And love them through it all.