Sunday, April 12, 2009

Look at you go

Just a week ago your dad sent me a text with video of you riding your bike. For years, you've been terrified of the thing, convinced that you'd crash and scrape your face off on the pavement. I partly blame this on your father who bought you the bike when you were four, when it was clearly WAY too big for you, and who took you out riding once, for about 15 minutes, before giving up and telling you that you weren't much of a bike rider.

But the truth is, you've always been a timid, cautious child - enough that I'd begun to think you'd spend the rest of your life hanging back, waiting in the wings. I've tried over and over to explain to you that crashing is part of learning; part of life. But to you, crashing was part of embarrassing falls and bleeding knees and you wanted no part of it, thank you very much.

And now look at you go.

When your dad dropped you off that day, you were so proud of yourself. "I know how to ride a bike!" you yelled as you ran across the yard. "I decided I was going to ride that bike, and I did. I did!" You'd spent three days with your grandparents, and in the last 20 minutes of the last day, you'd learned to ride a bike and your first 2-wheeled scooter (an early birthday present from Grandma).

You spent most of the next day giving me repeated heart attacks as you rode scooters with your best friend. He's had his scooter (and his bike) for at least a year, and you had to fight to keep up with him. I watched anxiously from the dining room window as he taught you to jump over the cracks in the sidewalk, terrified that you were moments from splitting open your chin but elated that you were really going for it. You were awkward and wobbly and completely uncoordinated, and you were having the time of your life.

I walked you both up to the park that afternoon so you could have a little more room and more interesting things on which to kill yourselves. You jumped off curbs and raced around mossy corners and fell over and over and over again. And aside from that one spill with a particularly ground-shaking elbow landing, you just grinned and answered my concerned glances with a shrug and a casual "Falling is part of learning, Mom."

There is no better gift than proof that you've actually been listening to me.

As I write this today, you are zipping up and down the block on your bike. You have discovered that standing while you pedal makes you go faster, and when you're tired you slowly ride around dangling one hand casually at your hip. You still tend to over-correct when you find yourself about to ride into something, quickly jerking the handlebars and landing yourself, hard, on the sidewalk as a result. There was a time such a thing would've been enough for you to heave that bike into the garage and not even look at it again for six months. But now you stop just long enough for me to acknowledge the severity of your wounds and wipe the snot bubbles from your nose before returning with angry determination to show that bike who's boss.

And though I still cringe with every waver, every near miss, every scraped and bloodied patch of skin, I am so proud of the way you've thrown yourself into this with a fearless tenacity usually reserved solely for arguments involving bedtime.

I think I'll never forget that first vision of you riding, your jagged steering zig-zagging you down the sidewalk and through the neighbor's flowerbeds, your helmet slightly askew because I hadn't correctly adjusted the straps. And I will never in a million years forget the sound of your small voice proudly calling to me, "Mom! Mom! Look at me go!"

Yes, love. I'm watching. Look at you go.

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