Training Wheels and Training Dad – How Our Four-Year-Old Taught Me to Let Go

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Training Wheels and Training Dad – How Our Four-Year-Old Taught Me to Let Go

I expected our son to fail, at least at first. Is it right in the script? Like a sparrow spreading its wings for the first time, there is a protocol to these things and I know my role. So on May Day this year, when the pink cherry blossoms were falling on the path in front of our Vancouver apartment, I invited our four-year-old Jonah up on stage and prepared myself seven steps, anyway how I read of-

1) Expect fear. Riding a bicycle without training wheels is a developmental leap for a child. It can cause some goosebumps, so be gentle, patient, and remember your own first time. Say “if I can do it, so can you” when removing the extra wheel from the bike.

2) Take the bike, bandages, and kids outside to a flat path, park, or schoolyard. All the while, keep the parental sound bites and pats on the back. Most importantly, your child needs encouragement and reassurance.

3) Put your child on the bike saddle. While gripping the seat back, invite him or her to place their feet on the pedals and balance. Take a deep breath, focus, and use positive visualization (you Do these things; it’s a big step for you too).

4) Start your engines! Grab the saddle and run with your kids as they pedal until-

a) Your child is ready to fly alone.

b) Your addiction to whipped cream lattes drains your energy.

5) Save your children. Assuming you don’t belong to the profile of 4b), then rush at your daredevil, who may moan in a mess of wheels, limbs and tears.

6) Matron, tell your child about the Wright Brothers’ first attempt at flying. Regardless, get him or her back on the bike. Coax the words “I can do it” from their quivering lips.

7) Repeat steps 3-6 as necessary until “I can do” confidence transcends your child’s crumbling world, and their newfound freedom sends them flying across the horizon, never to return (actually, when you hand over the car keys to when they were on the road for the first time).

8) If your child says they don’t need your help, ignore steps 1-7.

Wow. Where did the number 8 come from? I wish I had read it, because when Jonah said – get off daddy, I can handle it (in so many words), I felt like I was the one who got pushed out of the nest.

jonah won’t have these The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Two-Wheelers. In fact, from the very beginning, he was determined to embark on a new stage of life according to his own wishes.

“Don’t be scared,” I said, patting his ladybug helmet. “You’ll be fine. You might fall, but—”

“I’m not scared of Daddy. I’m ready,” he said as the wrench slipped off the nut and scratched the pad of my thumb. I stuffed the bloody mess into my mouth and chuckled at Jonah’s ego.We’ll see, I think, imagining myself, at this age Fives Likewise, spreading my arms out on the pavement, tangling up on my bike, picking up gravel from the palms of my hands.

Well, the Wright Brothers presentation was scheduled for another day because Jonah’s presentation was all A’s. After a year and a half of spinning training wheels along the seawall at False Creek, he was ready.

Wish I could say the same about his dad. Jonah climbed into the saddle, confident as the wind blew in from English Bay before I could start taking deep breaths and active visualization.

“Wait a minute champion” I said, grabbing my seat. “Things are going to be a little volatile. Let’s keep our balance—”

“Let go of Dad”

“Jonah, it’s not as easy as—”

“let go!”

So, I let it go. But I stand by my expectations. I fully anticipated step 5. When I should be grabbing the camera, I reach for the bandage.

Jonah hits the top pedal like James Dean hits the gas pedal Rebellion without a cause. he’s gone. There is no problem here. Sure, he cried, he wobbled, but unlike his old man, he didn’t fall over. He has no fear, no sweat, but is full of pride. He orchestrates a smooth turn, weaves his way through a row of flowers, and rides back to me with a grin as wide as his handlebars. That’s when I realized I could still play a character.

I raised my arms and pumped my fists.

“Well done Jonah!” I said, “You did it—and all on your own.”

Jonah was beaming. He couldn’t help giggling. He bounced around in the saddle like a jockey heading for the final sprint on Sea Biscuit. After the requisite victory (I followed, announcing to all passers-by, “This is my son—first attempt”), I invited Jonah inside to celebrate.

“Cake!” he said.

“Sounds good,” I said.

“Add whipped cream.”

“Sure, why not,” I laugh, packing the training wheels into the Safeway bag. The next little cyclist in training needs my help, if any, for a while. But this time I’m going to be ready – ready for anything.

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