Monday, March 19, 2012

No Training Wheels

I had a bit of a "mommy meltdown" yesterday.  Right outside in plain sight of my neighbors out walking their dogs.  Full blown foot stomping, voice raised, huffing and puffing with anger.  The source of my tantrum?  My son refuses to ride his bike without training wheels.  It is not so much the bike itself that forced my frustration to bubble up to the surface, but his complete and utter lack of risk taking he inherited from me.

I see so much of myself in him, and it triggers a deep sense of regret at times.  I think back upon years wasted because I did not put myself out there.  Of all of my traits to inherit, he had to get my need for success and perfection.  Simply put, I know he refuses to ride the two-wheeler because he thinks he will not succeed on his first try.  I used to live my life by the same theory. Many activities came easy for me, but if an activity did not, I wanted no part of it.  I played it safe in life for so long, and I missed out on some experiences that can never be replicated.  As I became older, I realized I owed myself more, I was capable of more, and I could achieve more.  The idea of failure no longer stopped me.  I began to take risks in my learning, in my attempts at endeavors I previously viewed as impossible.  I don't want Eli to wait until he is older to put himself out there.  As frustrating as his reluctance is, I get it. Once I finally took the "training wheels" off my life, I began to live more fully, more completely.  I want him to discover this sooner, rather than later. I want him to get on that bike, take it for a spin, and realize that he CAN ride a bike.  And, even if he can't . . . yet, he has to take the risk, and he has to keep trying.

I can also admit that part of my meltdown stems from the pressure of raising kids in a community where many people compare their children. Who read first, who can swim the length of the pool without ever having taken swim lessons, who was chosen for an elite soccer team.  I looked around and saw much younger neighbors riding a bike sans training wheels.  Internally, I compared my son with others, and I projected my own fear of inadequacies as a mother onto him.  I don't play the game of my-child-is-doing-this-already-is-yours?  But, I have to say, at times, it takes everything I have to keep silent.  I recognize that my two kids are unique individuals who will grow and develop on their own timelines, stemming from my philosophy as a teacher.  They will choose their path in this life, meet with great successes, and hopefully, experience some pretty big failures.  That way, they will learn and become more resilient, more likely to take risks and go for the gusto.  They just may surprise themselves with the outcome.

I had a moment of clarity after I stomped inside for my self-imposed time out.  My son is my son, and I love him whether or not he can ride a bike. When he is ready, he will ride.  Of that I am sure. As his mom, it is my job to make sure he knows that with riding a bike, you need to scrape up your knees, and it is o. k.  There is no other way to learn to ride other than just getting on and start pedaling.  And, in life, too, you just need to put yourself out there. You will fall, you will fail, and you will get back up again. Your mom will always be there to kiss your boo boo's and encourage you to try again.

Ride away, Eli.  I've got a pack of Star Wars band aids in my back pocket.


  1. Your post really moved me...because I can relate especially to the comparison game. I'm guessing that he will just take off one day...when there is no one there watching and some day you will be worried that he goes for the gusto without a second look. :)

  2. Teaching and living in the same community as you, I understand what you're saying with the whole comparison game that happens. Here is what I've learned with much, much hindsight. My oldest didn't fit the mold of many in the community - wasn't really an athlete, very cautious, didn't have a wide group of friends. But through the years her training wheels did come off - she studied abroad in Spain and now she is living independently, and more importantly happily, in Washington DC. It took a long while, but her training wheels are now off, and I couldn't be happier with the woman she has become.
    Loved the reflection in your piece.
    Best of luck to Eli with his biking progress!

  3. I can't really imagine you as a person who once upon a time didn't take risks!! That must mean that Eli will also grow and change into someone no one can yet imagine!

  4. This is one reason why you are such a gifted teacher - you know how to encourage and support risk taking!

  5. My son and I have the same problem. Did you read my Later, Dude post?

  6. It's the perserverence in your slice that makes me smile. I love how you are reflecting and realizing it will be okay in his time. Life is definitely not easy. Grab those band-aids.
    MH at

  7. It really doesn't matter whether one learns to ride a bike at 3,4,5 or in my daughter's case at the age of 7.
    I like how you ponder why are things the way they are and it helps you to be calm.