Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Joy in Trying Something New

 By nature, I'm one of those newborn birds who chooses to remain huddled deep in the bottom of my secure twig nest, quite content to forever remain there with downy, untested feathers.  Sure, I'll peek over the edge, even look around a bit in inquisitive wonder; yet, I dare not extend one wing into the open air for fear of failure.

Even with all my successes, I still fear newness.  I constantly fear failure.   But as an adult who knows life is deathly short, I constantly take the plunge over the edge into the empty depths of my fear, push myself to try new activities--making beeswax candles that spiral upwards, weaving baskets out of white reed from Indonesia, crocheting long Rapunzel braids that brush the floor, creating a three-tiered coral reef cake out of fondant or crafting a mermaid wave cake topper out of gingerbread and royal icing.

My oldest son, Wyatt, is just like me, only he hasn't quite reached the age where he's learned to choose action in the midst of fear, where he's learned the rush of success is worth the floundering spiral in thin air, falling tail feather over beak at times.

Now, I'm the mother bird called to gently push him out of the nest, despite his fears.  And when I fail?  God steps in.

We've been talking about taking Wyatt's training wheels off for months now.  He's six.  His church buddy just recently learned to ride on two versus four. He is strong and healthy.

Still, he balked at the idea, so I did nothing.

Then two weeks ago, Wyatt left his bike behind my van.  Yes, I did the visual sweep of the back corners as always, but somehow, that bright orange hunk of metal hid behind my aqua cracker box on wheels.  I completely missed it until I heard the sickening sound of metal, concrete, and my back bumper attempting to meld together.

Thankfully, my reverse speed is slower than a snapping turtle crossing Louisiana asphalt in the winter.  The bike looked fine as I gave it a frustrated push across the carport.  But, a few days later when Wyatt decided to take it for a spin, the bike wouldn't work.  One training wheel was bent.

As I shrugged my shoulders in a pretend-shocked, well-there's-nothing-else-we-can-do-but-take-the-broken-training-wheels-off fashion, I couldn't help but smile at the heavenly boot pushing this mother and son out of their safety zones. What a great task for him and me to undertake together over the Easter holidays.

For the next few minutes, I pushed; I let go; he pedaled; he crashed.  In five minutes, he could keep the bike upright but not multitask.  In other words, steering was completely out of the question.  Ten minutes later, he could drive a straight line but could neither start nor stop himself.

He fussed. He argued with me. He cried with defeatist frustration.

I sighed deep.  He would never learn on our 40 x 20 foot square of concrete . It was too small.  He'd get a good run and then fall off, unable to turn the sharp corner without crashing.
There was nothing to do but send him down the quarter-mile gravel driveway separating our house from my in-law's home.

He would have to learn by pedaling through pea gravel that acted more like quicksand than concrete.  He would have to learn to steer by holding desperately tight to a steering wheel that developed a mind of its own when driving across a minefield of golf ball sized gumball seeds dropped from the gum trees above.

Twice that day, I ran alongside him the full length of the drive and back, yelling at the top of my bossy, maternal lungs, "Pedal! Pedal! Don't stop! Push! Pedal! Push harder! Faster! Don't stop!" 

One mile later, he was elated!  One mile later, I was elated, exhausted, and hoarse.

Two days later, Wyatt was tired.  The newness had worn off, the praise had lost its luster.  One knee was scabbed over with a bloody war wound.  This riding a bike--it was work, not easy play.  He wanted the training wheels back on.

I solemnly shook my head no.  There was no turning back.  Besides (logic), the training wheel was still bent.

Now, he starts, stops, and steers by himself.  He's learned how to pedal harder to get up enough speed so he can make it through the big rocks.  Every afternoon, he drives up and down the drive, joy radiating from that little body as he beats me home again and again. He leaps and sings to me the "Practice makes perfect" ditty he frowned at when I sang it just last week.

And me? His joy is contagious.  I'm still so proud, I could burst.

This joy is what we miss when we're too afraid to get out of the nest, to try something new, when we don't even give ourselves the chance to succeed.  This joy is what we miss when we allow fear to hold us back from what we know we should do, what we've been called to.

If only I could bottle this feeling to remind me of what this joy feels like...for the next time I am frozen by my own fear.

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