Last night, Andy and I sat in his grandpa Lewie’s aluminum folding chairs and watched our daughters take off their dresses and run happy, wild circles with the chickens. The air suddenly leans into the blunt edge of fall. The sun settles into the introspection and coziness of shorter days and gentler heat. Margot and Ruby skipped, howled and laughed in their undies. Our own little Goodbye Summer party.
Behind our property is a field with a giant hill (the hill on which we sled and slip and run). Last night three tweens took turns climbing to the upper fence line with a mountain bike and rocketing down at speeds I am certain their mothers do not know about.
My body vibrates with the memory of Margot hopping on her bike one night last summer. Her little legs propelling her forward, her smile illuminating the universe.
I also remember the training wheels. I wrote this in June 2012:
Margot just finished her first year of preschool and my adventurous, loving, outgoing daughter dug even deeper into her confidence. She knows what she can do and holy smokes she does it. She’s been flying around on her bike, keeping up with the big kids, training wheels barely scraping the ground. And I’ve been gently suggesting and sometimes not-as-gently encouraging her to try it without her training wheels. She isn’t interested. One day I explained how safe she’d be with my palm firmly wrapped around her seat handle, how I just really wanted her to try it, to feel it because I knew she’d love it. I was pushy. She obliged for 27 seconds and then screeched to have her wheels back on. She wasn’t interested, as she’d told me.
Later that day, while biking to the park we had a conversation.
Margot: Mama, why do people ride bikes without training wheels?
Me: Well, there comes a time when they aren’t needed so we don’t use them.
Margot: But, why?
Me: You know how you drink out of a sippy cup and then you grow so you can drink out of a mug? It’s like that. You stop using sippy cups when you can drink from a mug.
Margot: But I just really like my training wheels.
Margot, after a few moments: Hey mom, if I wanted to, I could have training wheels when I am an adult, right? If I like it and it’s fun?
I opened my mouth to answer and didn’t say a thing. I smiled, my perspective shifted. SHE’S SO RIGHT. Why am I so invested in hurrying this thing along? When I all I want to do is slow it all down? What if she wants training wheels until she’s 15? Isn’t it all about fun and movement? Isn’t she four? Don’t we all want training wheels somewhere in our lives for the rest of our lives? She put me right in my place. Thanks, kid.
Margot peeked through the pea vines to watch the repeated descents and cheers. Andy and I exchanged raised eyebrow glances between wine sips, waiting for it.
“I’m going to go upstairs and change into some different clothes. I am going to try that.”
She was up and back like Clark Kent. She stared up at me, a constellation of freckles and those bright brown eyes that offer a portal into my utopia. “Can you please clip my bunny helmet mama? And will you come with me?”
We walked into the field, stiff grass nudging our ankles along. Her pace slowed as we neared. “Hi guys. This is Margot and she’d like to try,” I said with my hand on her bare shoulder.
Awesome! Wow! Hi Margot! How old are you? Do you need help?
Our welcome was warm and supportive and just plain wonderful. She positioned herself on her bike and I talked to her in a low, quiet voice. You just do what feels good to you. You go your own speed. You start at the place that is most comfortable…
“OK mama! I’m ready! Let go!” she squealed. I still held on. And on.
And then I let go.
She zoomed away, faster than I’d expected. Past Andy and Ruby and the tweens, into the cul-de-sac and around and straight back up, higher this time. And higher and higher. Again and again until the sun applauded a brilliant pink ovation to growth, success, joy and now.
And another little video. xo