A few days ago, I wrote about my son’s emotional response to the news that a good friend of his is moving soon. If what we saw that night was a mature, sincere sadness, then what we saw this evening was one of the happiest moments of his young life: he rode a bike on his own for the first time. His smile was priceless, with all those gaps from missing teeth, bright with pride and excitement.
Riding a bike is one of those rites of passage in childhood that most kids can’t wait to do. We have a bit of an anomaly in our son, as it took a decent amount of pep talks to get him to want to try. I’m not sure if he was afraid of falling, resistant to the challenge, or just disinterested. He has friends in the neighborhood who are out riding their bikes frequently. If he was bothered by their achievement of this milestone while he stuck to his scooter, he didn’t say anything. (I’m seeing a theme of concealing feelings well here.) Another example of his “late blooming” was that he just learned to swim last year. I think he might have worn swimmies another couple of years had I not taken them away and signed him up for swimming lessons. In contrast, he learned how to read with essentially no “instruction”, just lots of reading together, by age 3. He has always gravitated towards and excelled in things of a more academic nature, with very little effort or prodding from us.
The funny thing about both the swimming and the bike riding is that once we convinced him to earnestly try, he got it on the first day. He just needed that final push. Of course the foundation was there in both situations–years of playing in the pool prepared him for finally going underwater and learning the basic strokes on his own. Years of riding his bike with training wheels and speeding around on his scooter had given him the balance and strength for finally riding on two wheels with no one holding onto the back of his seat. Apparently, his biggest challenge is his own mind–but are there really that many of us for whom this isn’t true as well?
Back to the smile–I was sitting in the garage with my toddler and my parents, while my husband ran behind that wobbly but upright bicycle. As he came across the cul-de-sac and towards the driveway, I saw one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on his face. Interestingly, this smile has a connection to the tears he had the other night: we were talking as a family about being cheerful and bringing cheer to others after reading about those things in his devotional. I asked him if he had any friends who might need cheering up, and although he said no at first (because his friends are already pretty cheerful), I reminded him that his plan to write to his friend who is moving would surely bring cheer to both of them. He took that idea and went a step further, saying with a grin, “Yeah, and during the summer I can tell her I can ride a mile on my bike!”. He can ride a few yards by himself now, but that statement showed me that he’s got the confidence and excitement now to go as far as he chooses to go, and that made me smile.