Friday, September 24, 2010

Learning to ride a bike

When Little Man taught himself to ride a bike with no training wheels yesterday, I was standing chatting with a neighbor and watching him out of the corner of my eye. He was having a hard time at first, struggling over and over to get the bike going before he started to fall sideways and catching himself just in time. I started out helping him, but, honestly? Bending over that far and keeping the bike straight up while running next to him? I wasn't so good at it. The bike wobbled -- it wobbled a lot. And having me in control (in name, anyway) of the bike seemed to make L.M. nervous. Finally he wanted to try it by himself, so I let him.

I had mentioned earlier that everyone falls once or twice while they are learning to ride a bike, and he was appalled. "I don't want to fall! I'm not going to fall," he declared, and I thought, "Oh, sure you will. Why is falling so terrible?" but I let it go. Weirdly, though, he didn't.

Within what seemed like a short amount of time -- an hour or two? -- he was making it 3 feet -- 5 feet -- 10 feet before starting to lose balance. And then he was zipping up and down the street, only losing it sometimes while turning, but otherwise fine. Still chatting with my neighbor, I watched and applauded him, "You're doing great, honey!" My attention was only partly distracted, because I really was beaming with pride at his determination and success.

Even so, I almost missed it. He said it quietly, to himself really, and I was in the middle of a story and only watching him peripherally, but I did catch it with some part of my mind. Because I didn't respond at the time, but later I woke up and remembered that moment and had that experience I've never been able to put properly into words. I didn't get tears in my eyes, but I was -- halted somehow -- in everything: breathing, thinking, feeling. Lost in wonder. Grateful. What he had said so quietly to himself was,

"I have dreamed of this."

What I saw, yesterday, with my very own eyes, was my son experiencing, literally, a dream come true.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Re: the suggestion of taking a walk around the block: "Yeah mom! and then we can lose ourselves, and then find ourselves again!" Exactly.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Naturalist poet

Driving by the river this morning. From the back seat: "Mom! I saw a heron!" [pause] "At least I think it was a heron. It was as tall as a baby tree and as thin as a bicycle wheel. And kind of blue-ish."

Friday, May 14, 2010

The three little wolves

New favorite story: one Little Man told me at bedtime last night, about the three little wolves and the big, bad pig, who kept trying to blow their newly-built houses down. See, the bricks- and cement-based houses went down easily with sledgehammers and jackhammers, but the one made of flowers? That one survived. Because of the beauty and aroma of the flowers, people. The pig was overcome by beauty and decided to make friends with the wolves instead of eating them.

See? It's like I've always said: Art saves lives.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Independence, inter-dependence

The blog about my conflicts as a parent. Is what it should be called. Today I am thinking about Little Man's struggle for independence -- or, more accurately, his struggle for its opposite. Mommy, can you put my shoes on? help me in the bathroom? zipper my coat? He's my first and only (so far), and I just don't know what is reasonable to expect. At five, he sometimes strikes me as, I don't know, weirdly done. No, not done, of course, not like he's ready to look for an apartment and get his own checking account. But he needs me for so little now. He can get his own snacks out of the kitchen, pour his own milk, design his own craft projects. He can negotiate with me over rules, he can remember tiny details about animals who live in the rainforest halfway around the world, he corrects me on my spotty understanding of how a steam train works. He knows what he wants to wear, and he reminds me to put on my seatbelt, after having clicked on his own.

But he also wants to be a baby forever. And who doesn't want to be babied? (See my husband during his last cold. Ahem. But, honestly, me too -- when my latest cooking project wasn't going well, did I not want someone to step in and say "Oh don't worry, honey, I'll finish that. You got put your feet up and let me bring you a cup of tea"?) But when Little Man won't fasten his own kid-friendly shoes "because it's hard," (and we're talking velcro, here, people), or won't even try to take care of his own bathroom hygiene, or is reluctant to zipper his own coat, I wonder. The bad part is that I find myself wavering between empathy (I do understand his feelings, after all) and frustration. The thing to do, I begin to understand as I'm writing this, is to express the empathy but without letting him get away with fostering his own dependence. Because it's the emotional part I find compelling; it's not that I don't want him to learn to take care of himself; I just don't want him to feel abandoned.

This morning at preschool, when he said he wanted me to stuff his mittens into his coat sleeve because it's "too hard," and I said, "Honey, it's not that hard," and he said "Because you're a grownup," I could simultaneously see two things: sure it's manipulative, in a way, but it's also true that his world is full of things that he struggles to do and grownups find easy. My refusal to help must seem to him arbitrarily mean at times. Look, it's easy for you and hard for me, why not just do it for me? Right. Reasonable. Except that you won't be a kid forever, and I can't come to college with you to tie your shoes.

I want to do both: wrap my kid up in my arms, making him feel safe and warm forever, cherished and cared for all of his days. And, also: I want to help him grow up to be self-sufficient, stable, clear-visioned adult, not looking to other people to fill up the holes in his own heart. I need to stop indulging his feelings by doing for him, because indulging a feeling isn't the same as honoring it. Instead, I can empathize while also helping him find his way to greater independence. Even if it means he will eventually leave me and go to college, or a mountain in Tibet, or wherever. Because he will do that anyway, and it would be better if he didn't need to ask a dorm advisor or passing yak farmer to zip his coat for him.