Monday Musings…Letting Go is as Easy as Riding a Bike
One of my granddaughter’s just received her first two-wheeled bicycle, with the training wheels attached of course. This was a monumental day! It marked a milestone in her life, and also in the lives of her parents. Interestingly enough, it was an Elsa and Anna bicycle, complete with tassels on the handle bars! I thought this was pretty clever marketing on the manufacturer’s part, as it subliminally serenaded her parents that it was time to start “letting go”.
Barely able to reach the pedals, she was encouraged to push down and set those wheels in motion. It took no time for her to get the idea and before we knew it, she was off to the races! The delight on her face was infectious. We all looked on with pride that here she was, mastering such an important skill.
Now, it’s one thing to move in a straight line. It takes an entirely different tactic to turn around. After one or two demonstrations, she caught on, and within minutes became quite proficient at turning tight corners. We all marvelled at how quickly she adapted to this challenge, and more than anything wanted to do it on her own. Her message to us was clear: “Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, I don’t need you to help me. I can do this on my own.” Well, it was more like: “Don’t help! I do this!”, but you get my drift. We certainly were watching hers.
And so, it begins…the initiation into the 18 Year War of Independence.
Ask any parent whose kids are grown and they will tell you how fast the time flew since watching that first bicycle ride. At the time, you don’t see it as there are constant demands on your time from sports, to homework, to a multitude of often senseless obligations…. it feels like the relentless Tour de France. Before you know it, the training wheels come off, and they graduate to a scooter or roller blades. You make sure they are well protected with knee pads, shoulder pads, a helmet, and a buddy (often that dreaded sibling who in return dreads ‘babysitting’ you). And they take off out of view! In the back of your mind you recite: “I’ll worry forever, I’ll be anxious always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
This fear engine revs as the child transitions to driver’s ed (which I highly recommend for anxious parents who may displace their terror onto the novice driver). In Ontario, we actually have a graduated system that I think was invented by a nervous parent to stop kids from driving around with their hooligan friends for three more years; at least until they pull out of the driveway, with their precious belongings in tow, as they make their way into the post-secondary world. Then, they are set free! Or are they? - as you track their distance and therefore speed with an app on your phone and eagerly await their text when they reach their destination.
Why is letting go so hard? It all boils down to trust. Parents don’t trust their children, other children, other drivers, and it leaves the parents…Frozen! Instead they need to take a lesson from the four-year-old.
My granddaughter with wide eyed ambition trusted those training wheels to keep her stable. She tested it out and learned that if she didn’t pedal, she would slow down and not crash into the wall. (She hadn’t quite mastered the braking system yet.) She had confidence in her instincts to navigate around challenging corners, and after a few attempts, got the hang of it, and then circled over and over again to perfect it. She accomplished this all on her own. She figured it out, while we stood by and watched, without jumping in. She had proven to us, that we had nothing to fear. She had figured out how to keep herself safe. You see, the road to Independence is a marked route that can end in Peace. You trust the child with a short distance, then gradually they go farther and farther, until you see them off for the long-distance trek.
In no time those training wheels will come off, and she’ll fall, but knowing how she’s wired, I’m going to trust that she’ll dust herself off and get back on that bike. Why? Because in her pain she’ll be singing: “Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold it back anymore” and she’ll slam the door on her fear. If she can do it, can’t you?
For this week, I want you to listen to Never Grow Up by Taylor Swift. I had this song played at my daughter’s wedding. From my heart to hers <3 I have no fear she is an awesome Mom!