Two wheels

On Saturday Whit asked to try biking without his training wheels.  He’s a cautious fellow, uninclined to try something new until he’s fairly sure he can do it.  In the past he has been adamantly opposed to trying to bike on two wheels.  So we though we ought to jump on his new interest.  And we did.  Matt unscrewed the training wheels and off we went, two blocks up the street, to our park.

We decided to use the basketball courts because of how flat they are.  Matt stood behind Whit, helping him balance, and breaking into a slow jog, pushing Whit on the bike.  And like millions of parents before him, he let go. And Whit biked away.

He flew.

He biked on his own the very first time he tried.  When he slowed to a halt, disembarking inelegantly by letting the bike clatter to the ground, his face was lit by a huge, radiant smile.  He wanted to try it over and over again.  And so we did.  I stood back, my shadow vivid on the cement basketball court from the sun overhead, and I watched.  My eyes filled with tears.  This, so soon after Grace had pierced my heart with the heartbreakingly familiar I-want-to-be-littler comment.

Finally, we walked home.  Whit wanted to bike down our street to home.  I ran ahead and waited for him in front of our house.  As Matt got him started at the top of the street, I noticed a neighbor walk out onto her front porch on her way to her car.  She paused, watching Matt and Whit.  Her children are probably 5 years older than mine.  Watching her watching us, I thought: this is it.  This is one of those moments.  I had that powerful sense of observing myself even as I lived, that awareness, uncomfortable in its intensity, that I was passing over a threshold.  And then I turned to watch my youngest child pedal towards me down the street on two wheels.  And to hug him, fiercely, blinking back tears, after he made it all the way to me.

With special thanks to Kathleen Nolan, who reminded me of this poem:

To a Daughter Leaving Home
(Linda Pastan)

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

12 thoughts on “Two wheels”

  1. Thanks for this, Lindsey.

    As I watch my girl move away from me, looking at colleges and beginning to build her life, it takes my breath away – in much the same way as you watching Whit.


  2. me too…heart bursting. feel i could step into your last gorgeous photo and soak in your joy. tree shadow seems to resemble bare branches on the sky…as if whit is riding in the sky.

  3. Loved the poem! Especially timely as I watched my younger sister go off to the junior prom over the weekend and had the same realization: this is one of those moments. We only have her here at home for a finite period of time. xxx Thanks for sharing Walt’s latest milestone with us!

  4. Love this post and the poem. Losing the training wheels is one of those parenting moments that just feels like a metaphor for the whole experience.

  5. I loved both this post and the one about Grace. Your kids are breathtaking! Scott always reminds me, “We’re livin’ the dream.” This magical age of early childhood. You write about it brilliantly!!


  6. Such an archetypal moment, that first flight of freedom, the open road, life by the horns… the template for every subsequent plunge, and then of every increasingly autonomous step in our kids’ journeys away from our training-wheel shelter.

    I love that Whit ends up pedaling toward you in that dappled light, a moment so multiply observed, so consciously lived—so freely connected to every first and every last.

  7. Aren’t those moments in which we observe ourselves–and the magnitude of an event–powerful? I have that sense often, that I will intentionally record what is happening in my brain to preserve it for play-back at a later date. (I know you’ve written about memory, and these moments are the easy ones, the ones we clearly understand and want to capture.)

    I can’t imagine watching my girls have that degree of mobility and freedom, but we’re doing some serious tricycling, so it won’t be long!

  8. Lindsey – such thanks for you as I sit here crying.

    A few days ago I left my childhood home for probably the last time after helping my mum pack up all my dad’s belongings for donation. As we backed out of the driveway in the backyard to head to the airport, I looked down the back alley and the tears came as I remembered my dad holding on and then letting go of the seat of my bike as I peddled away from him for the first time. I miss him so.

Comments are closed.