Thursday, April 17, 2014

When Children are Reluctant to Grow Up

There's a pile of training wheels on my carport--six now useless plastic wheels cast off like prison chains, evidence that three bikes have been freed from their shackles and received their walking papers to fly.

To anyone else, the tangle of worn-down plastic and steel may look like worthless scrap metal destined for the garbage heap or the dark recesses of some shed where rust corrupts the unused parts of our lives.  But to a mother, it serves as another sweet memento of childhood's passing.

Last Thursday, this mother brought out her toolbox and forcefully removed these safety measures from the twins' bikes.   One wheel was quite determined to fight against its freedom, requiring a few kicks to the wrench (something I'm sure their daddy wouldn't do!)

Always riding big brother's coat tails, Emerson was ready.  Less than half a dozen motherly pushes, and he was down the quarter-mile drive to Opa's house with the smell of Oma's after-school brownies pushing him onward.

Amelia, though, wasn't so confident.  She is my seemingly fearless princess trying to keep up with the boys playing in the mud.  But, like her mother, she is my uncertain child who never quite trusts herself, who has to be convinced she can do whatever it is, especially if there is a good chance of getting hurt. In other words, she's the one I'm constantly having to shove out of the nest.

Over and over, she sees the possibility of danger out of the corner of her eye and stops peddling, causing crashes that could have easily have been avoided had she simply kept going.

That first night after doing little more than pedaling a few feet and then crashing because of her lack of confidence, she is inconsolable.  Evening prayers are followed by a sobbing little girl blubbering about how she is scared and doesn't want to ride again without her training wheels.

I shrug. Sure.  If she really doesn't want to learn to ride without them, I'll put them back on in the morning...if she's really sure.

The sobs subside a bit.  Apparently, this mama has given in too easily, unexpectedly.

"Are you sure," I ask, forcing her to meet my eyes to show her I'm serious.

Her eyes drop and her voice squeaks.  "Well, maybe....."

A weekend later, my frog princess smooths down her purple top and hitches up the pink butterfly skirt, all the while talking encouragement to herself as she's heard me do so often. Over and over, she yells in triumph as she makes it to the first curve in the drive...and then walks the bike back to me for help in starting again.

Learning to ride your bike is a rite of passage, much like learning to walk and learning to drive a car. 

This rite involves overcoming one's fear of falling, crashing, and just generally getting dinged and dented in the process.  It requires learning to trust the one holding you upright on those inaugural voyages and then learning to trust yourself and continue along the path when you realize that support has unknowingly set you free.
 Sounds a lot like life lessons in general to me.

In the end, my two little children are free.  Unshackled.  Faster than they ever believed possible when still chained down.  And so proud of themselves for succeeding when they weren't sure they could.

1 comment:

  1. I love this picture of Amelia at the end. Triumphant? Uncertain? And always a little sassy :)