Sometimes. kids are little assholes. As parents, our jobs, should we do it successfully, is to not raise little assholes, but it has to be said, some parents are failing mightily.
Let me explain.
This is the year I have been giving the kids a bit more leeway and independence. I let them play out in the neighborhood more, my son goes on bike rides with his friend who lives around the corner. Now that they are a bit older, it’s time to trust them more, and I know they will keep an eye on each other. I can watch them out the window, or from the front stoop, but they are feeling more responsible and independent. Part of this was their age, but a big part was knowing at even the little one’s age I was always out playing or riding bikes with friends. I went out right after homework and stayed outside until the street lights came on. I had no cell phone. I was fine. It taught me responsibility, street smarts, and I got fresh air. My friends and I all looked out for each other. It made for a good childhood.
My children, on the other hand, haven’t had as much of that. With my work schedule, they got home close to dinner time. After homework, it was already starting to get dark. I was nervous about them being outside while I was cooking. There weren’t too many kids on the street. The result? Too much screen time, not enough fresh air. Another result? My daughter is almost 8 and couldn’t ride a bike without training wheels. This never bothered me, and it didn’t bother her either. That is, it didn’t bother her until the asshole neighbor kid started commenting on it. Then of course, the other kids had to tell the tale of when they learned how to ride a bike. I watched my daughter’s face crumble a bit, then tighten with resolve.
That night, I knew. I grabbed a wrench and took her training wheels off.
The next day, I took her outside and started showing her how to balance on her bike. She was nervous, but I could see strains of confidence beginning to appear. Just when I thought we were almost where I could start teaching her to use the pedals, the asshole kid came up. He started again with the brag. Not even a humble brag, but a full on, almost neener neener kind of brag. I tried to be an adult. I told him she was learning, and it would be more helpful if he cheered her on. I said “let’s keep it positive!”.
He persisted in his assholish behavior. I told him to go home.
At that point, I picked up her bike and wrangled it in my car. “Hop in” I told her, “we’re gonna learn how to ride that bike!” I drove down to an office park, knowing on a Saturday it would be a ghost town. We got down to business, practicing balancing. There was some whining. Some self doubt appeared for both of us. And then, just like that, her feet hit the pedals. Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when the braces come off and you see that sudden realization and determination in his face? That was the same look she had. Within 10 minutes, she was whizzing around the parking lot.
I clapped. I cheered. I danced. I teared up a little.
I was just so damned proud. I was proud of her for sticking with it. I was proud of her grace when that kid was giving her balls. And, if I’m honest, I’m proud I was able to teach her. Riding a bike for a kid is a big deal. I always figured I’d never be able to teach them, and that my husband would be the one to do it. Yet I managed to teach both kids, and I think they’ll remember it was something I was able to do for them. Kids remember our successes. They remember (and sometimes land in therapy because of) our failures. We don’t get an instruction manual. We’re winging it every day as parents. So that little success of “I can do it! I can teach her how to ride that bike!” was LIFE for me in that moment.
Parenting is just like writing a novel. There are characters and stories, twists and turns, heroes and villains, successes and failures. We as parents work tirelessly, endlessly on our greatest works of art. Our kids. We love them, nurture them, and hope that their story will have more smiles than tears, more success that failures. We are just one character of many in their story, but we play very important parts to that story.
When we got home, she hopped on her bike, and rode is smoothly down the sidewalks and back. The kid who had given her a hard time came by and was shocked to see her riding without training wheels. The other kids in the neighborhood also looked surprised. “You learned to ride that in one day?” he asked her.
Yep, my mama taught me how.”
Best sentence I’ve heard in a long time.