My brave 5-year-old rode without training wheels for the first time over the July 4th holiday weekend. To say I was thrilled, proud, and ecstatic are pale adjectives to the deep swell of love and happiness I felt watching her swoosh down the long driveway of her nanny and pappy’s house.
The whole thing was something of a fluke – as these things in life often are – nanny and pappy had gotten her an awesome new sports bike and transferred her training wheels onto it. Buuuuut, the wheels were too small for the new bike so she couldn’t use them without falling over. She wouldn’t be discouraged, however… She wanted to ride her bike, so she did! She was cruising along and those training wheels didn’t even touch the ground. And, boy, without the training wheels, she went fast. The first time she went wobbly, she gave herself a scare, because she went to lean onto those wheels – but they weren’t there. I wasn’t invested in her riding without wheels, so, I thought, heck, we’ll see where this goes. We had a little conversation:
A: “Mommy, I’m scared.”
M: “That’s okay. You don’t have to do this, if you don’t want. But I believe in you.” (she tried again)
A: “Mommy, I’m still scared.”
M: “That’s okay. It’s okay to be scared. Fear is OK.”
A (upset): “What if I can’t do it, and I really want to! I want to ride my bike!”
M: “I know. The training wheels don’t really work right now. We can wait until this afternoon and put them back on your smaller bike, if you’d like?”
A: “I want to ride my bike now! But I’m too afraid!”
M: “That’s okay. Why don’t we take a break?”
M: “We can take a moment, breathe a *big* belly breath.” (she did, and I could see her calming down) “Remember, everyone is afraid when we try new things. Being brave means doing something even if you’re a little scared. Or even *A LOT* scared.”*
A (interest piqued): “Were you scared when you were little and fell down the hill on your blue bike?”
M (startled that she remembered that story from a few weeks ago): “Yes, yes I was.”
A: “Did it hurt?”
M (honestly): “Yes, but only a little. But you wanna know what I did next?”
A: “You got back on your bike again?”
M: “That’s right! It was a bit scary and I got some owies, but I also had a LOT of fun. Wasn’t it fun when you were going all by yourself a little bit ago?”
M: “You wanna try again? I’ll be right by you. I won’t let go until you’re ready, and I’m okay if you don’t want to…”
A: “I want to! Let’s go!!”
That’s just a little snippet of the conversations we had as she worked up the courage to take off on her own – and whooie! That girl makes my heart swell. She did that. She is brave, my little warrior. She just needed to know that she wasn’t alone. Everyone is afraid, and we can get through it if we breathe and believe.
Of course, within two minutes, she was saying, “Mommy, stop jogging so close to me… You’re in my way. You’re going to make me fall!” So I hung back and just watched her go – and oh, how her face lit up with her accomplishment.
And, as I watched her ride, so proud, I felt so incredibly lucky. In her riding,
I saw the countless hours her Nanny and Pappy had invested in her. Pappy’s adjusting the bike, keeping their eyes out for bikes for the kids, Nanny’s hours spent with Amara on her glider, her bike, for the research regarding the Gliders, for taking her out on all those days while I was working, and believing in her… Nanny and Pappy gave her wings and boy, does she fly!
I am one lucky mommy.
*Note 1: I kept talking because it seemed like just hearing me talk in a slow, soothing way was calming her down. I didn’t really think she was listening to anything I was saying!
**Note 2: As a survivor I can’t emphasize this enough: we must all have a healthy appreciation for fear. I find myself using the adjective “fearless” as if that is a noble or lofty goal, but to be truly fearless is to be reckless. Gavin De Becker’s Gift of Fear explains this in far better detail than I ever could. As the tagline says: “True fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse.”