Last weekend was perfect for a bike ride. Actually, any day of the week is perfect for a bike ride when you have three perpetual motion kids who need to do something outside so they stop tearing up your living room.
So bike we did – Nick as the line leader on his two-wheeler, followed by Olivia, perched on the front of Lori’s bike, then Gabe on his balance bike, with me bringing up the rear. I didn’t so much ride as balance precariously while moving 2 inches per hour because Gabe, being the sweet, adorable, distractible 3-year-old that he is, had to stop and pick every single #$@#% dandelion on our way to the park.
I loved my Mother’s Day bouquet, but sometimes, you want to just screw the journey and reach the destination.
While Gabe stops for weeds, Nick stops for hills – the more dangerous and gray-hair-inducing the better. If there is any way he can figure out how to make a moderately steep hill more treacherous, he’ll do it by pulling out every X Games stunt he can think of.
Legs outstretched? OK, I can be down with that.
Hands raised above his head? Um, ok, but…
Pop a wheelie then spin the front handle bars –
“NICK! Watch out for that tree!”
I held my breath, trying to get that dang George of the Jungle theme song out of my head as my eldest struggled with the bike, trying to keep his balance and stay out of the groove between the sidewalk and the grass as he applied his brakes.
By some Act of God, he skidded sideways to a stop then did a fist pump in the air…mere inches from the trunk that would have cracked his helmet – and possibly his skull.
“Did you see that, Nana?”
Even though I had been calculating whether it would be faster to dial an ambulance from my phone or put him in the car and drive to the ER…I do have to admit I was proud of the way he handled himself, and his bike.
He is fearless, that one. His younger brother could learn a few things.
“So Gabe…” I said to my second boy, still seated on his balance bike. “Do you want to go down the hill like big brother?”
He looked at me like I’d lost my freakin’ mind.
Instead, he dismounted and walked his bike veeeeeery slooooooowly down the incline, which was fine for the first 2 minutes or so. But then I got impatient, and started to worry that his reluctance was actually a sign of something much worse, like a future failure to launch. With his fear of over-sized silk plants at Grandma’s house and men with facial hair, would Gabe grow up to be an adult paralyzed by his overcautiousness?
It could be a stage…but what if it isn’t?
What if he’s that “well-he-really-kept-to-himself” guy who collects miniature cat figurines and lives in his parents’ basement?
Spurred by this vision, I launched into what I thought was a string of encouraging words, “C’mon Gabe, don’t you want to go a little faster? Nick went superfast. You can do it, too. You’re a big boy, remember? Who’s such a strong, brave boy? Get on your bike, Gabe. We’re almost down the hill and you won’t have any more room to zoom. Who’s the man? Who’s – ”
Gabe stopped walking his bike and turned his whole body to face me, eyes squinting in the sun, as he said very firmly –
“Not. Yet. Nana.”
Wait, was his scolding me?
Oh snap! He was.
Oh, double snap! He is so right.
I played my words back in my head. Ugh! I sounded like a playground punk – “All the cool kids are doing it. Don’t you want to be cool?”
Push. Push. Push.
And I was so busy berating my parenting skills that I almost missed it when Gabe hopped on his bike and just took off, his laughter filling the air, legs outstretched, in full control of his bike.
On his terms.
On his own time.
We push our kids – for their own good, we tell ourselves – to do more, to be better, to live up to their full potential. And there’s a time for interventions – for tutors, assessments, and the like.
But there’s also a time to accept that where they are is exactly where they need to be, whether it’s reading, potty training, or riding a bike. Instead of spending hours on sight word flashcards, stressing over training wheels, or trying to come up with new hit-the-cheerio potty games, we can take the higher road, the winding path.
The one that leaves a stack of Ninjago comics on the coffee table.
The one that leaves a two wheeler and a bike helmet by the back door.
The one that moves the Kitty Kommode into the kitchen for easier access.
The one that takes fear, failure and frustration out of the picture, and replaces it with love, support and unwavering confidence in our children…no matter how long “it” takes.
Later in the week, Nick was so engrossed in a book that he ran into a door (not as bad as a tree, but still…). Gabe insisted on racing down every hill he could find, and Olivia demanded to use the potty at the most inconvenient – for us – times.
We think these days will never come.
But they do…in due time.