Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hi! Bye!

Thing 1 did not get a strong, early start in bike-riding. Our neighborhood in New York was too hilly for street-riding, and while we did go down to the park on occasion, it wasn't often enough for him to work his way out of training wheels. Now we're in Tucson, where spring was so hectic it flew by, and only a lunatic rides a bike during summer.

At last it is autumn (yes, it took that long), and we were determined to help him get up on the bike. Last Sunday, we took the boys to a nearby park. Thing 1 rode around on the training wheels for a bit, but the bike was very wobbly. After all, he's seven now, and far too big to be riding on flimsy little wheels.

I took them off and reassured him that everything was going to be fine, and that I wasn't going to let go of him. I ran alongside the bike, holding on to him, but he panicked. "I can't do it," he said. "The OT told me I couldn't ride a bike without training wheels." He begged me to put the wheels back on.

The Wife had taken Thing 1 to see an occupational therapist to help with fine and gross motor skills, and especially with his fidgety-ness, which she claimed (and the OT seconded) was due in part to moving from crawling to walking too quickly as an infant. But I couldn't believe the woman would have told my boy that he flat-out couldn't do something.

The Wife agreed--that's not what had been said. "Well," I said, "that's what he heard. And now he's convinced himself that he can't do this." She went off to talk with him for a while. When she came back, she said, "he's willing to try it three more times, as long as he's going downhill."

Good enough. I took the training wheels off again and we went up a gentle slope. We ran down the hill together, and after about five feet, I was able to let go of the bike. When we got to the bottom, I told him that I hadn't been holding on, and he was amazed.

Well, we didn't do it three times; we did it thirteen times. Down the hill, then straight across the park, then up the hill, then around behind the baseball field. And he fell a couple of times, but not badly. And when he did fall, I said, "You can get upset and throw the bike away, or you can brush yourself off and try it again till you get it right--it's up to you."

It's been a week now, and he's gone riding every single day. We can't keep him off of it.

Yesterday, he zoomed past where we were sitting and said, "Hi! Bye!" And I said to myself: Well, there it is. There's child-rearing in a nutshell. Because everything he learns is a step away from me and into his own, independent life--from talking to walking to reading to bike-riding to whatever comes next. He is as happy to say Bye! as he is to say Hi!

And he should be. I remember what it felt like--the freedom to just go--wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. To be free, and independent, and alone--alone to go places, or to go nowhere--to stop along the way and look at the trees, or read a book, nothing.

I was very lucky, apparently. From what I hear and read, that kind of alone-time is rare and getting rarer. Kids always have someone watching them, guiding them, planning events for them. Which is great. But I loved those times when I had nothing to do and nowhere to go--even when I had no one to do things with. I loved being able to head out on my bike--or on foot through the woods--or onto the lake in a rowboat--all by myself, to explore and imagine and dream. I would march through the woods and find rocks to climb on and clearings to play in. I would row out to my own little Tom Sawyer island in the middle of the lake. And I would bike around our neighborhood for hours--sometimes with no destination, just to ride.

Looking back now, part of me is horrified at the freedom my parents gave me. In today's context, it's unimaginable. He could have drowned! He could have fallen! He could have gotten lost! All true, I suppose. And in many cases, it would have been hours or days before anyone found me.

Fortunately, none of those terrible things ever happened to me.

I'm sure I won't feel safe giving Thing 1 quite that much latitude--the world being what it is today. But I hope I'll be able to give him some. Enough that he can feel the world is wide and free and his for the exploring, and that there is time enough and room enough in it for his own, uninterrupted dreaming.

In the meantime, he takes practice spins around the nest, improving his technique and strengthening his wings.

Hi, little bird!

1 comment:

Heather said...

WOW is that kid lucky to have you for a Dad!
; )
The Wife