— Iris Murdoch, “The Red and the Green”
For a mother, it turns out to be nightmarish exercise in utter futility, only comparable to learning to tie one’s shoes.
Load up one very gangly little boy, knees already covered in scabs, bruises and scrapes, position him on this two-wheeled contraption and let go.
(It’s the letting go part that bothers us moms.)
Because as soon as mom lets go, the bike starts wobbling to and fro and she knows that those knees are going to be roughed up again.
He crashes, of course. Mom walks a few feet over to where he lays, picks the bike up off that little boy, and wheels it back to the starting line.
Little boy is loaded up once again, while mom grabs the back of the seat. She pushes off and yells, “Keep pedaling. Don’t stop!”
He stops when the bike lands on top of him.
They wheel it back up to the starting line again.
By this time, little boy is getting defeated. So mom keeps cheering him on.
“You can do this!”
So he climbs back on, gripping the handlebars as hard as he can. Still holding on to his seat, mom doesn’t want to let go. Not again. She pushes off, and he pedals, and he pedals some more.
“Use the brakes,” much older, wiser brother screams.
Brakes used, gravel flies and bike again lands on smiling, happy, exuberant little boy.
“I did it. I did it!”
Little boy wanted a shiny, new bicycle for his 8th birthday, so he and his mom headed to discount haven to see what they could find. Walking in the double sliding doors, the excitement was pouring out of his little body. New bike day is a big day — almost bigger than turning 8. Mom and her little boy made a bee line to the back of the store, where many shiny bikes hung in wait for little boy to pick out his favorite.
The first bike they pulled out of the cage was a sky blue Tony Hawk version. It was a full 20-inches, and had shiny black pegs that little boy knew one day would support his very brave little brother. The pedals looked super cool, and little boy was convinced this was the bike for him. No other would possibly do. He tried it on, and it fit — just barely. The seat would need to be lowered, but the sky blue Tony Hawk bike made little boy smile.
Mom loves to see little boy smile.
He patiently wheeled it through the store, rounding curves, as mom picked up toilet paper, diapers, soup, cookies and more. He held on tight to that bike, as people couldn’t help but comment, “Looks like someone’s getting a new bike.” Little boy’s grin only grew bigger with each passing comment.
The new bike was loaded up in the big truck and hauled home. The seat was lowered with a simple Allen wrench by experienced mom, and little boy began practicing his pursuit of ultimate boyhood — learning to ride a bike.
And as mom watched with awe, she realized that it’s always going to be the letting go part that’s the hardest.