Our 5-year-old grandson learned to ride a pedal bike last night! For months he had resisted trying, saying he would learn when he was older. Last night, for whatever reason, he valiantly confronted his fears on the back patio when no one was watching. With success in his back pocket, he excitedly announced it to all.
I, his Gigi, got to follow him, soon after, on a bike ride around the neighborhood and onto part of the paved trail nearby. Although my main function was to keep him safe and help him find the way, I began to realize that this exuberant little bike rider had a few things to teach me.
The plan was for him to stay on the sidewalks in the neighborhood, then go a short distance on the bike trail, with me following on my bike. He wobbled around the first sidewalk corner and immediately almost rear ended a parked truck! But luckily my “shout out” alerted him in time. He quickly maneuvered back to the sidewalk. Lesson: When life plants an unexpected “parked truck” in your way, listen to the warnings, then get back on track and keep going.
Next came a house whose front yard is filled willy nilly with various garden art, knick-knacky animal sculptures, and lots of weeds. He stopped to admire it all, declaring he’d like to live in a house like that someday. Lesson: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
As we rounded the next corner onto a cul-de-sac he slowed down to watch young rabbits hopping through the yards. He sees rabbits every day, as they are as ubiquitous as kids on a playground. Even so, he was fascinated. Lesson: Don’t stop observing the commonplace just because it is commonplace.
He continued wobbling, the handle bars moving left and right as though steering through an obstacle course. The result was an up and down, back and forth between the sidewalk, with its slanted edge, and the street. I daresay my distracted mind wobbles through my daily activities. Staying focused and mindful takes practice.
Once on the bike trail, it wasn’t long before he came to an abrupt halt (dragging his feet to stop until he learns how to brake). He looked over at the abundant cattails growing in the marsh. “Are those cattails? I’ve never seen real cattails! Those are cool.” As I looked at them through his eyes, I wondered if I still allow myself to feel the awe and excitement of new discoveries.
As we proceeded over a wooden plank bridge, he suddenly jumped off his bike, leaving it in the middle of the bridge, and shouted out, “Did you see that snake?” Well, no, I hadn’t, but I was cautiously alarmed by this pronouncement. He leaned over, peering into the half-inch gaps between the boards. I peered, too, but saw nothing. “There is a real snake down there under the boards. It’s not a gardener snake. It has a black mouth!” Fortunately it was not showing itself for which I silently gave thanks and marveled at his good imagination. The lesson here is that there are many “snakes” of all kinds in life. You just have to be able to spot them in the cracks, and “call a snake a snake.” Oh, and hope it’s just your imagination.
It was a pretty long ride for a little guy, but when we got back to the slanted driveway, he didn’t walk the bike up. He summoned his strength and rode right up it to the garage door, announcing his accomplishment to all. Even when he was tired, he pushed through to the end. I’m sure some of that strength came from his pride, excitement, and enthusiasm with his new accomplishment.
As an aging grandma, I can learn that I don’t need to “get off my bike” or slow down until I’m ready. I can give life that extra push, fueled by the wonder and joy of each new day. Renewal through grandson!
Jean Christen is a retired elementary teacher who indulges her passion for children by telling stories to 2nd graders and babysitting her grandson. Originally from the Midwest, she put down roots in Fort Collins after a stint in the Peace Corps and graduate work at UNC in Greeley (CO). In retirement she has begun writing vignettes about her life to pass down to her children and grandchildren. She lives in Fort Collins with her husband, and together they enjoy family, volunteering, and traveling the world.