29 Aug I’ll never catch up
It is the most palpable letting-go since birth, my firstborn off on the two wheels of a bike for the first time. This baby bird, nurtured and grown, released from my hands into the wide open air of independence — leaving me behind, still running, even though he doesn’t need me there. He’s off. I can’t catch up. I’ll never catch up.
Our boy Henry, with a loose tooth and a buzz cut, will be six this month. He’s been on training wheels since Christmas a year and a half ago, when his grandparents, “BobbyDeeDee” Avon, bought him a bright orange bike with a big handle up in back so you can help drive while your kid gets the hang of it. We’ve steered that thing all over town.
In May, we raised the training wheels. He’d ride sideways, trying to get up centered, and then flop back over. He didn’t do much bike riding this summer. Most weekends we’re in Vermont.
It wasn’t until his classmate Thomas Patterson and his family rode over to our house for a play date — all on two wheels. Motivation struck. Henry was bound and determined. The training wheels came off that evening.
Cory ran up and down our sidewalk, coaching as Henry grew increasingly frustrated, lashing out — “It’s YOUR fault, YOU’RE doing it wrong.” Cory maintained patience, steady in his dadliness, encouraging, guiding.
Henry really wanted to take off the handle and head to the bike path, and on our way Cory let him go once and I cheered loudly and Henry caught himself just before falling over, shouting, “Mom, that was YOUR fault!” — He was right. I pledged silence.
Little moments, Cory would let him go, and I’d hold my breath, and we made it to Cooper’s Cave for an ice cream break with my mom and baby Ellie (My dad stayed home with our other son, Danny).
This may get us in trouble someday, but ever since he was a toddler trying to climb that green bug thing at the Ridge Street playground behind the firehouse, I’ve told him that he can do anything he sets his mind to if he believes in himself: “If you tell yourself you can’t, you can’t. If you tell yourself you can, you can.”
So when he whined and said he couldn’t do it, I said, “Not with an attitude like that!” He knew the cue.
He clenched his fists and went inward.
“I can DO this! I can DO this.”
Five-plus years back, our friend Kevin Driscoll rang our doorbell. His son Kellen was about Henry‘s age at the time, and had just ridden across town and down our street.
It was getting late, but this was it. Despite Cory’s sensible cautioning about bedtime, I said, “I think it’s time to ride to the Driscolls’ house.”
And do you know? He did it. 0.7 miles. Not bad for a first go. Mark Frost drove by as Kellen’s brother Trevor was showing Henry how to stop hard and “skid” leaving a mark on the pavement.
By the time we got back home, Henry could start off on his own, brake on his own, turn, and skid. So now I have a kid who can ride a bike. And all the feelings.
I don’t think I can handle it.