Earlier this week our recently-turned-five-year-old announced that he wanted to ride his bike without his training wheels. He made this announcement while his dad was in the middle of trying to fix the leaf blower. I remember him saying something about tiny little parts being all over the place…so the answer was probably, “Yeah, OK…in just a little while when I finish this.” Which is something the boys hear a lot because they like to ask for things when we are knee-deep in something else.
Not being terribly gifted with patience, our son decided to rummage around in the tools…found the appropriately-sized socket wrench…and tackled those wheels himself. By the time my husband was finished with the leaf blower, there was a two-wheeled bike in the garage next to a helmeted-padded-up little boy who was ready to hit the street!
And away they went. I think my husband was a little disappointed that he hardly needed any help at all…and practically no running-along-side-the-bike action. He lit off on that thing like he’d never had training wheels on it at all. So exciting!
Of course we had to have a little party.
Nothing really fancy at all…literally a last-minute idea just to reinforce how proud we were and a chance for some family to come over the next day and see a demonstration of the new skills! He was beside himself all afternoon. And he helped with decorations – made obvious by those crazy scissor lines.
I was reminded of a great idea I heard several years ago called the “honor candle.” A mom of several kids had a special candle she kept in a closet…it only came out for special events which merited “honor.” At some time during the day she would put it out on the dining room table – indicating that someone would be the honoree at dinner time – but she wouldn’t say anything else. And then, when it was time to eat the candle would be lit and she would announce who was being honored and why. The thing I liked about this wasn’t just the overall concept but more the examples she gave of when the candle might come out. A brother “caught” sharing a prized toy with a younger sibling when he thought no one was watching. A fifth grader with a B on a test…in a class where she had struggled to even get Cs. A son who was beyond nervous to play in the big championship soccer game…and they didn’t win…but he showed dedication and sportsmanship. Maybe not the typical events one thinks of for celebration, but teaching moments for sure…supporting children in times of struggle, persistence and disappointment…and reinforcing the most important family values. I think we will probably come up with an honor candle ritual fairly soon – maybe when Kindergarten starts – but in the meantime a flurry of silly little decorations was a good substitute.
And such a cute helper!
Dinner was fairly no-fuss…chicken breasts and angelhair pasta in a lemon-garlic-cream sauce and a big salad eaten on the back patio. We looked up what Tour de France racers most commonly eat and he was so delighted to discover that it was “noodles!!”
I will admit that several times over the past couple of days I’ve been aware of what a metaphor the whole experience is for parenthood in general. As we were at the park the next day practicing more bike riding, I was watching in disbelief as he rode farther and farther ahead of us on the trail…suddenly thinking, “I think there’s a pretty big dip up there and then a little hill, and maybe even a ditch to the side of the trail.” The only thing I could say to myself was, “It’s OK. He knows the rules and he’s so careful. And he’s wearing a helmet. He’ll be fine.” And about that time I saw him heading back toward me at full speed with the biggest smile on his face, yelling how he had turned around all by himself without stopping. I laughed at myself for my moment of worry and thought, “This will be much harder when it’s a car.”