For four years I’ve stayed in close proximity to a secondhand, red and blue tricycle as it rolled across pavement and down slanted sidewalks. The plastic may be faded and the tassels may be missing or tattered, but this tricycle has a wicked rear bucket that hauls loads of rocks and toys each day. Most of these four years, my back was uncomfortably hunched as I pushed the bike along with my outstretched hand. More recently, I have stayed close by as Parker, my two-year-old son, slowly scoots up and down the sidewalk in front of our house.
However, all of this changed a few weeks ago. I watched as Parker placed his bare feet upon the faded plastic pedals and made one full rotation causing the tricycle to move forward by a few inches. Surprised, he stopped and looked up at me, a proud grin quickly growing on his face. “I did it!” he exclaimed. “Watch, Mommy, watch!”
He carefully mounted both feet back on the pedals and pushed them around a few times while I gently nudged the back of his seat, giving him a little momentum. This went on for a bit, and then I watched him keep going all my himself. He rolled down the sidewalk in slow waves of motion, the pedals moving around and around while Parker rode his tricycle!
Outwardly, I cheered and clapped excessively. But I was surprised by how I felt as I watched. I can remember pure excitement for each new milestone that Jackson, his older brother, acquired, but this time was different. You think you kinda sorta maybe know some stuff with the second child, but time and time again you learn you still don’t know all that much.
Watching Parker roll along left me feeling bittersweet. Two-year-olds change so quickly. In the same week, he started wearing underwear AND learned to ride a bike. I felt a weary ache knowing that I may never push a little tricycle down the sidewalk again. In a flash, that season in motherhood was over. Of course, my back quietly claimed a victory for my posture, but my heart experienced the loss of being needed, which is so much of what motherhood is all about.
I have decided that this course in Tricycling 101 is one of the first steps in learning how to embrace our children’s ever growing independence. It’s a taste of what is to come. Eventually, I will send little boys off to school and to their friend’s house. They will ride bikes around the neighborhood; they will drive off in a car; they will move away and build their own lives. So much of motherhood is learning to let go.
The days that followed his first ride were a bit rough on Parker’s knees as his new skill resulted in quite a few spills. He would push too hard with one foot and the bike would teeter out of balance, tip over and send him tumbling onto the sidewalk. I would pick him up and hold him close and then bandage up his skinned knees. At times, he would grow frustrated, pushing with equal force on both pedals. The bike would stand motionless, resulting in loud wails and whining as he tried to figure out how to move the tricycle forward. But as the days passed and he worked at pedaling, he learned to push with alternating feet. The pedals began to move smoothly in their circular motion. He was gaining ounces of independence.
All new ventures, whether it’s riding a bike or becoming a mother, are challenging for our hearts and minds and bodies. We don’t get it all just right when we start something new. We look a bit uncoordinated. We fall over. We get frustrated. But if we keep at it, the end result is worth all the effort and all the mishaps. We learn we are capable of the hard stuff.
Yesterday Jamie and I took the boys to the Greenway. For the first time, we loaded two small bikes into the van and walked along the river while the boys rode their bikes together. This time, it wasn’t bittersweet at all – it was beautiful. We even made it ten whole minutes before someone started whining.
Parker has passed his course in Tricycling 101, and I think I’m going to pass it too. I’m not sure which class I’ll take next, but I’m hoping to enroll in Boogers Aren’t Food 101 or Beers For Moms 101. In the meantime, we will just keep on pedaling, around and around, down the sidewalk, along the river, savoring the simple motion and the newfound freedom that is held on the wheels of an old, red and blue trike.