It was the early 80’s. I was in first grade and a good percentage of my friends were scooting around the neighborhood on their bikes without training wheels. I wasn’t. My training wheels were off, but I still couldn’t ride under my own power. My friend Daniel H came over after school with his bike (he’d been off training wheels for a long time) and wanted to go riding, but he was stymied by my “still in training” status. So he and I went out in front of my house together and 30 minutes later triumphantly went back inside to report to my mother that Daniel had taught me how to ride my bike.
I’ve often wondered who was going to be my kids’ “Daniel H”.
For her fourth birthday we bought Episode IV a shiny new bike, because every 4-year-old needs a bike to practice on. Between then and now it went largely under utilized. For the longest time the kids seemed more excited about wearing the helmets than mounting up and riding. Our hilly neighborhood isn’t particularly conducive to learning to ride a bike. It has to be a deliberate act where you pack up the kid and the bike into the car, drive to the right place and commence with the formal lesson. No spontinaity. Episode IV and I have been out a couple of times without the training wheels, but the realities of soccer games and birthday parties and multiple children in the house meant those formal lessons were few and far between, and always they were initiated by me.
Yesterday, out of nowhere, Episode IV came up to me and said “Daddy, can we go to the park and practice riding my bike?” I was tired and grumpy from dealing with the mostly rainy day, but when your 6-year-old asks you to help her ride her bike, a good father never turns that down. So we packed the bike up into the car, searched all over the house, garage and backyard for her helmet, and drove to the park to give it another try.
This is what happened:
Just like when she learned to walk and learned to read there was absolutely no lead-up. One day she just decided she was going to do it… and she did it. Pure moxy.
When you’re a blogger all sorts of themes go through your head at a moment like this: the balance between holding on and letting go, watching your child ride away all on her own (litterally into the sunset), but those themes are low-hanging fruit so I’ll spare you the cliche’s. Just as she was riding off on her bike for the very first time, my very dear friend hot-young-married-housewife-school-teacher-co-worker-10 years my senior was heading to the airport to welcome her son home from college for the first time. She and I shared a few happy parenting tears via text-message along with thoughts about our kids taking that “next step.” We went around and around the track thrilled with her new skills, celebrating her victory, she and I sharing the same adrenaline-high.
Grandparents, aunts and uncles all cheered with a flurry of text messages over the next hour. We celebrated by letting Episode IV pick the place to go out to dinner.
That night, exhausted, Episode IV fell asleep instantly. Later, when I was in bed I scrolled through the momentous day’s text messages. My mother hit the nail on the head.
“You are her Daniel H.”
I sure am, and I’m so glad.