When your youngest child learns to ride a bike… Long may you ride, my son
I bet you can tell me when and where you learned to ride a bike.
I was 5 and learned in white concrete alley behind our red brick Philadelphia row house.
The bike was red with black rubber handle grips and solid plastic wheels. A few days earlier, Dad and I bought the bike from a bearded man with wire-rimmed glasses who sold refurbished bikes from inside his garage.
When it comes to learning to ride a bike I’m sure we had similar experiences.
On a warm afternoon, Dad stood behind me. And as we eyed the alley, he spoke instructions in my ear. When my feet found the pedals, he held my seat and pushed and I would pedal, and together we found speed, his walk became a trout and the weight of his hand vanished and I would pedal and balance and glide on my own and though I couldn’t see him, I felt him standing behind, watching the distance grow between us.
Then, afraid I had gone too far without him, I would toss my feet off the pedals, scrap them along the concrete until the bike and I stopped.
Dad and I would repeat the process again and again until I didn’t need him anymore.
This week my youngest son, Dylan, learned how to ride a bike.
As a parent it’s a thrilling moment. You just witnessed your child learn something permanent–like riding a bike.
But then comes a quiet moment, when they’re pedaling away, getting smaller and smaller when you realize below your pride, a twitch of sadness.
Because you know this is just the beginning of them rushing away to discover new things. Things they won’t need you for. Things they won’t want you to know about.
But as children, who grew into adults, we always remember learning to ride a bike.
A moment of independence. Where we learned we possessed a secret power to achieve previously unknown speeds. It was the closest we ever came to flying and with it–giddy possibility.
A youthful, magical moment where the world became both smaller and larger.
And the end of the street didn’t seem so far away.
Long may you ride, my son.