Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tell Me When to Let Go

Bubba is the designated bicycle coach at our house. For some reason, when I attempted to help Eve shed her training wheels, the dynamic between the two of us was so nerve-wracking that we both ended up in tears. Bubba is much more optimistic and relaxed and patient than I. (Shh, don't tell him I said that or I'll never hear the end of it). So the job of teaching Eve to master this most zen-like balancing act fell to him. Or it would have if she wasn't so much like me. Turns out she wasn't willing to wait for him to help her, so one afternoon she simply banished me inside and made me promise not to spy on her out the living room windows. I promised, but I had my fingers crossed behind my back. Hey! I had to know when to expect this bloody, screaming mess to come barrelling through the garage door, didn't I?

I could barely see her through the web of shrubs and maple leaves as she worked and worked, struggling to put one foot on the pedal and GO without falling over or wobbling too much to the side. Twenty minutes in, I got tired of standing on one leg, craning my neck around the windowframe to peer out at her and I had to sit down. Thirty minutes in, I actually reached over to the coffee table and picked up a magazine. Not one of my shining mommy-moments, I know.

Forty minutes in, I saw something whiz by the windows. Eve on her bike, doing 70. She had done it. I raced out onto the porch, jaw gaping, and saw her grin from the other end of the cul-de-sac. She rode back and forth, back and forth, faster and faster, grinning so much the corners of her mouth were hidden underneath the straps from her bike helmet. When she finally stopped, she jumped off, flung her arms around me and screamed, "I DID IT!! ALL BY MYSELF!!" I wrapped my arms around her, settling in for a long hug, but she squirmed away, ran to the neighbors' house, knocked on the door and proudly asked them if they wanted to come out and watch her ride her bike without training wheels. I've never seen a prouder person.

Four years later, it's Lola's turn. She's determined that this is going to be the summer she learns to ride without those dang things that just slow her down. Now is Bubba's time to shine. He spent last Saturday slowly helping her build her confidence as I was relegated to the indoors. Notice a pattern here?

This afternoon, Bubba got on a plane and Lola decided she wanted my help. I took a deep breath and dove in. It didn't begin well. She explained that Daddy told her it's easier to start with one pedal up and the other down, so she asked me to put the left pedal up for her to start with. But you're right-handed. It makes more sense to have the right pedal up. That's the way I always did it. Nope, no place for my inner monologue here. Shut up, Mommy - just do what she asked you to. Pedals set, I steadied the bike by the handlebars while she lifted her leg over the seat and stood on her tiptoes. Then I held her up with one hand on the handlebars and the other on the seat behind her. She started to go, seemed to be pushing really hard to get it moving, and pulled hard to the left. C'mon. Let's push to the right. You're turning into the grass, kiddo.

We tried again and again with the same results. We just couldn't get this thing started. Finally, I had her get off so I could try it myself, see why it was pulling to the left or if the brakes were stuck. Why can't we get this thing going? She's a strong kid. Other than the fact that the girls were mortified that someone might see me riding this little bike like a clown in the circus, everything seemed in order. We tried a different tack.

"How about you steady the bike with your bottom foot while you push with the top one?" I hesitated to offer any out-loud advice in case it could be perceived as criticism, but this was nuts. We put the pedals in the right place and tried again. This time, I didn't hold the handlebars. I just steadied her with one hand underneath the seat. "Tell me when to let go."

She did. And she took off like a shot.
One round of the neighborhood and she was back.
We did it again.
The fourth time, she started by herself - no help from me at all.
There's that proud grin again.
Guess Bubba's going to have to wait for Driver's Ed.

Later that day, the girls and I pulled out a brand new puzzle. My method is to turn over all the pieces first, locate the corners and then separate the edges. Eve feels the same way. Lola likes to dive right in, finding the part of the puzzle she thinks looks like the most fun, and tackle it right away. Makes me nuts.

I'm busy separating out edge pieces and Eve's studying the photo of the finished puzzle, committing it to memory.

"I'm doing the monkey eating popcorn, okay? That's my part!" announces Lola. What. Ever. It doesn't touch the edge, so I'm not interested yet.

Seconds later, she has two or three pieces put together and she's searching for more.

"I need some popcorn."

I'm not looking for any da*n popcorn! I'm busy setting this thing up the right way. Doing the edges, girlfriend!

"So if you see any popcorn, pass it to me, okay? Cuz this monkey is cute and I need to get him his snack."

All of a sudden it occurs to me. Lola's not demanding. She's not asking me to drop everything and look for her puzzle pieces. She's simply letting everyone know that she is enjoying her part of the puzzle and if we happen to come across something that might fit in her space, we can pass it to her. If we don't, that's okay too. REVELATION!!!!! Just because someone close to me utters the phrase "I need..." does not mean that I am automatically assigned to meet that need.

Tell me when to let go...


Carrie Wilson Link said...


And this? "Thirty minutes in, I actually reached over to the coffee table and picked up a magazine. Not one of my shining mommy-moments, I know." More of these.

Michelle O'Neil said...

I LOVE that your girl taught herself how to ride a bike, and I LOVE that you picked up that magazine and let her be.

I LOVE how your other girl puts together puzzles.

I LOVE that you are cognizant of giving them space.

Deb Shucka said...

I think the letting go happens in stages. Sounds like you've got this one down - training wheels off. Great story!

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