From the minute you put your child onto their first bike you know there will come a time when the training wheels will have to come off. You know this, yet you don’t realize how quickly that day will sneak up on you.
Suddenly, last week, this day was upon us. We decided that we would take the training wheels off my daughters bike (7 years old, sparkly streamers on the handle bars, subject of an earlier post ‘Why I Won’t Raise a Cry Baby’) and my son’s bike (4.5 years old, came out of the womb able to do somersaults, self-proclaimed king of the world) at the same time. “Why go through this twice?”, was the thought.
As we loaded the bikes in the van to drive to the nearest bike trail (no way were our kids going learn to ride on the Indy-500 in front of our house) I could feel my stomach cramping. They were going to fall, whine, cry, sniffle, whine some more, and then bleed. My daughter was likely never going to get on a bike again. I thought about hiding the bikes and detouring to an ice cream store in a wildly evasive manoeuvre.
I suddenly realized I was holding my breath and starting to squirm. I breathed out and looked at them, smiling with their helmets already on (in the van, yes, they were that excited!). What was I really afraid of? Afraid they would fall and fail? Or afraid they would succeed and start looking for other ‘training wheels’ that needed removing in their life?
We had recently bought alarm clocks for their rooms to teach them to tell time (really it was so we could tell my little morning monsters “Don’t get out of bed until the first number is a 6”). We bought a night light so they could go pee at night without being scared (well, it was so they wouldn’t keep waking us up to go for their nocturnal pee-trip). It occurred to me that we were removing the ‘training wheels’ all over the house…and the training wheels were ME! No longer sought out in the same desperate, clingy and needy way… I was also going through a transformation. My children are becoming more self-sufficient and independent…which is so refreshing (lots of extra sleep on my part) and mildly unnerving. No training wheels means bloody knees, bruises and tears. It also means confidence, big adventures and freedom. They were ready for this…was I?
We arrived at the bike path and I was resolved to show no fear. My strategy was to lower their seats so they could stand flat footed and use their feet to propel themselves. I had seen them whizzing around on scooters at their grandparents house, so I knew they had grasped the technique of balancing their giant blond heads. My daughter went first and I held my breath again. Within seconds she was too far to catch and quickly gaining speed down the sloping hill. I looked at my husband, who was returning my helpless gaze…and then she lifted her feet and that was it. She was pedalling and it was all over. No tears, no skinned knees…just a huge smiling face and a waving hand from the bottom of the hill. With only a few more wobbles my son was just as successful.
I looked like the guy in the picture above, my hands up in the air, my face jubilant, like I had made it myself to the bottom of the hill. And I had. I had transitioned into a new phase of parenthood unscathed. Maybe still a little rattled at the thought that my little babies can now careen 100 km/hour down the road away from my outreached arms (safety net). But the smiles on their faces are so worth it.
It also helps that I am now sleeping through the night thanks to those alarm clocks and night light, and our walks around the block will no longer be at a snails pace.