August 2, 2015: Let Him Ride the Damn Bike

The title of this blog is very appropriate. At least from my current perspective.

'Let him ride the damn bike.'

Yesterday I needed a break from e-mail and the busyness of work. An endeavor that never seems to reduce. One of my guilty indulgences of the day was watching some old videos that I recently had restored.

It was all good fun until I reached the segment recorded in the clip above. With Ben over my shoulder, we watched me 'helicopter' my eldest as he learned to ride his bike.

Even Ben commented, "Mom, what were you doing?"

At the time, I thought what I was doing was perfectly normal. What any good mom should be doing. I was helping my son learn to ride his bike. From my vantage point at the time, I was where I needed to be to ensure his safety and to keep him going in the right direction.

But from my current vantage point of observing from my computer screen, fifteen years later, what I saw was completely different.

How could the child even learn with his mother hovering over him? Poor Zach didn't have a chance of venturing out on his own. I was his surrogate training wheels. I even waved to the neighbors as I virtually rode Zach's bike with him.

The thought that plagued me yesterday was "seriously, Sandy, let him ride the damn bike." I shocked myself at the helicopter mom I appeared to be. I could envision myself as Zach progressed in his riding skills. The visual was me on the sidelines wearing a Britney Spears-like headset and yelling warnings to him. "Pot hole up ahead at 2:00! Veer left." or "Hard stop at the stop sign. Car coming up hill."

With my constant and well-intentioned 'support', Zach was guaranteed to remain safe and never get hurt. Just what a mom is supposed to provide for her child.

Fast forward fifteen years. I now have a different perspective on parenting and the necessity for my kids to ride their bikes on their own. This change in perspective has come with time, life experiences, and continued good advice from my husband. Who has the benefit of a view from a fresh set of eyes.

"Let them have their own journey" has been a common statement made to me from Garrett. Although in theory I have agreed with him, executing on this belief is much harder than it sounds. What if they take a hard fall and break an arm? If I see a pot hole, why wouldn't I warn them? That's what mom's do.

But this theory is flawed. If we all lived life with training wheels and a safety net within an arms reach, we would never learn. We would never progress in a meaningful manner as humans.

There is something to be said for the fear of a pot hole or broken limb in our future. One drives better knowing these risks exist around us. Eyes always open. Brakes always checked. And the love of the open road? Much better without your mom breathing down your neck.

So next week Zach graduates from gunsmithing school. He has four days left to conclude his schooling and move on into the working world. I am excited for the next leg in his journey. The training wheels are coming off.

As I ask questions on his job search and new home in Fort Collins, I wonder about his 'twelve month plan'. But I remind myself that Zach's journey is not my journey. He can and should handle it alone and he should do it his way. Not mine.

Zach may blow the stop sign at the end of the street or a tire. But the road he takes is his choice and the pot holes along the way, his journey. There will be hills to climb and no doubt he will quickly learn the joys of a wind to your back and a warm sun shining on your face.

Time for mom to take a deep breath and let him ride the bike on his own. The vantage point is much better from the sidewalk anyway.


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