Rite of Passage

Sunday afternoon I had the great honor of running along side my daughter, trying to keep her from falling off her bike as she shakily attempted to ride it for the first time without training wheels. Back and forth across the deserted black top she rode and I ran.

She did a great job. She never did manage to ride without me holding her up, but she tried over and over again, never getting frustrated or despairing, never asking to quit. We stopped, rested and started again. When she did manage to pedal a few times without me holding her so carefully, she was elated.

I was so proud.

And even though we left without that victorious moment when I let go and she rode away from me, a shiny new skill acquired, it felt like a parenting rite of passage.

I never gave much thought to teaching my kids how to ride a bike. It was not one of those parenting moments I was waiting to cherish. But in the end, it is something I will hold close and remember forever. Just like I’ll never forget the day she rides away from me without looking back.

I left the playground with a feeling of profound satisfaction, not because we had manage to get my daughter on her bike, but instead because I was reminded yet again how much more I like parenting these days, how it finally seems to fit me in many of the ways I expected. I always loved little kids, and caring for them was my job for over a decade, so I was surprised (and somewhat terrified) when parenting babies and toddlers was not the wondrous experience I was expecting. When, in fact, I didn’t seem to enjoy it much at all.

But in much the same way I sensed, when I was an unhappy teen and dissatisfied twenty-something, that I’d be more content as I got older, I guessed that parenting older children would fit me better as well. And I was right. Every year my daughter gets older and I enjoy parenting more. Now we can do all the things I was so excited to do together. Now we can share the books and the movies I couldn’t wait to read and watch again. Now we can have the conversations that make me think and feel profoundly. Or just laugh really hard at something hilarious.

I am thankful every day that I’m mostly passed the toddler years. My son still has his moments, and I have to remind myself a lot that he’s only four (he’s easily the size of a five or even six year old), but even he is growing up, and soon both my kids will be school aged, and life will be glorious.

Or at the very least, a lot more fun.

Which season of life have you most enjoyed?

11 Comments

  1. Although I must only have been 4 or 5 I remember exactly where I was and how I felt the first moment I rode a bike without stabilisers or someone holding on behind…… its a big moment. She will be there soon and will be off and away without a backward glance. Another milestone.

  2. How lovely! She learned real quick too 🙂
    I have also noticed that some of the best things in parenthood are the ones I never knew to anticipate or expect.

    Overall, I’ve probably enjoyed every life period, but in different way. When I was younger, there were a lot of ups and downs; later more stable happiness. I think my happiness really started to grow when I turned 30, and has steadily grown ever since.

    When it comes to parenting I hear you on older kids being great but for me having a small toddler has been the best 🙂 I can’t help it but I’d like to have a 1-2 year old ALWAYS AND ALWAYS. (My friends think I’m insane).

    1. I currently have three young children (5, 3 and 1) and I love it so much. I think I always want a small toddler in the house! I cannot imagine not having one, I often get the side eyes from my friends as well 🙂

      1. I enjoyed my son when he was 1-2. I think my son was just pretty easy then and it was fun witnessing his language accumulation. But it was a lot of work (young toddlers are pretty helpless) and kind of boring — I remember trying to fill endless hours in the afternoons (only napped for an hour). I definitely enjoy him more as he gets older. I am expecting again and I can’t believe I have to do the baby thing all over again. Hopefully this time I’ll have a better attitude because I’ll be prepared for it and have a better understanding that it is only a short time.

  3. Those unexpected triumphs are amazing as a parent. I get tears in my eyes hearing my daughter reading on her own or reading to her siblings. I also am so very proud when someone comments on her behavior or kind heart. I think, “man, I am doing something right.” Those are the best feelings. Those moments no one tells you to expect.

  4. Fabulous about your daughter! Thrilled for you, glad she is at an age and place that rewards all the hard times and work.

  5. I think a lot of people say 5-10 is the sweet spot. I read somewhere that early adolescence is the hardest age for parents of boys and girls. I had a hard time with a baby. I think I just never found it that fun and I really resented the exhaustion. And I also resented that getting enough sleep required being under house arrest to get naps in. I also felt guilty that I didn’t love it.

  6. Bike tip- take the pedals off (or go to a bike shop and have them do it) and have your daughter ride the bike as a balance bike. Then after a few weeks put the pedals back on and she will be off and running by herself!

    I’m liking age 4 so far because I can start to introduce my daughter to so many things! I’m looking forward to my son getting older and talking more. He is super cute at 18 mo but gets into everything!

  7. Another option is to go to a place that has a slight incline and rather than hold on to the side of the bike, ask her to glide a bit and start pedaling. It may be easier for her that way. Ultimately, that’s how I learned to ride a bike. I freaked out when my dad moved his hand off of the bike and I was too scared to start pedaling from a standing position. But, gliding for a few seconds down hill and then pedaling was easier and I eventually got used to the sensation. I was pretty old, so maybe it was more time rather than teaching technique, but it’s worth a try?

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