Patience is the last of her friends to lose the training wheels on her bike. She doesn't mind though, and amazingly, neither do they.
As daredevil crazy as both of my kids can be in many respects, when it comes to certain things---such as riding a bike---they are cautious. Patience even more so than Persistence.
I think this reveals their inner control freak: on a bike, you are not completely in control. Things can happen to knock you over. You have to trust the bike, road, and balance. This trust and team work can come hard to our type of person. But with the right space and encouragement, it will come and when it does, it's a beautiful thing.
Patience has built this trust and her confidence, so this month she asked us to take off the training wheels. This month, the month she leaves 5 behind---5, the last preschool year, the final little kid year, the completion of the baby stage---she is ready to remove more than just her bike's training wheels.
I never had to reach for Patience. She is the sort of child who was always there, ready to be hugged or cuddled, looking to stay close to me. She is the sort of child I have always had to keep up a certain encouragement, "It's okay, you can do it, go on...run out there, play with friends." She never had tantrums about independence, never said, "NO! I do it myself!" Patience was always content to let someone take care of those pesky details for her, such as tying her shoes, buckling her seatbelt, or making her food.
However, I consider her an independent child, and she is: very independently minded.
In fact, I think this is why the training wheels are not an issue for her or her friends.
I can imagine the scenario, because I've seen it so many times:
Child 1 (mocking ha ha tone): Ha ha ha ha ha Patience uses training wheels!
Patience, unperturbed: Yes I do. I am still a learning child and that's okay. I'll take them off soon, when I'm good and ready. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know.
Child 1: Oh, okay.
Patience began riding her bike later than other children, and despite the pressure we received, we didn't push it. I think this is our entire sort of unlearning approach to parenting (which some---many?---might call slacker parenting): encourage but don't train or push. We took her to the store when she turned four and let her choose a bike. She tried it, didn't care for it, and applied herself to other, more interesting to her, things. We'd pull out the bike, remind her about it, and encourage riding. But we also knew, in the end, our timetable wasn't really what mattered to her, or to the situation. When she turned five, she approached us.
"Mom, Dad, I want to ride my bike." And she did. This is how Patience operates. She has done this for every milestone. She rolled over, sat up, crawled and walked when she was good and ready (the walking bit was a tad early for my taste, but again, it's not my timetable). She potty trained herself; one day at two and a half she announced, "I'm a big girl now and will use the potty." The rest---reading, biking, gymnastics, tying her shoes, and so on---has been the same. Sometimes she's "early" and sometimes she's "late" according to books, other parents, and nosy strangers, but from our perspective, she's always right on time.
I am in no hurry for her to grow up, and apparently, neither is she. We're taking our time with this getting older business, and I think it's a huge relief to her that I trust her independence and give her space and encouragement, but exert no pressure on her to get any older any faster.
It might be my vantage point: I still wear clothes that are older than she is. In my mind, that makes her very young, indeed, no matter how much all she has accomplished in six short years amazes me.
She's very rational and logical, so if the question or issue comes up---and at times it does for my sensitive child who strives for perfection---I remind her that she is a learning child, which is a perfectly acceptable thing to be at any age actually, and that she will learn it. We walk through the milestones she has accomplished in her own time, and note her mastery of these things. Thus reassured, she resumes marching to the beat of her own drummer.
This enables her to be unperturbed when peers pressure her. Usually. She can get caught up in the tide, more so now at kindergarten, when the tide is stronger and more constant.
I call on her logic and ask her to walk through making a decision before going along. She does. Usually.
I watch her considering her situation and she is at once so familiar and so unknown, this rapidly changing and growing child.
When she crawls into bed with me in the morning and cuddles against me, hand at my elbow (her babyhood lovey) I feel relief: here is my baby, here is my girl, my baby girl, my sweet cuddler.
When she demands that we remove her training wheels, I feel pride: there goes my baby, my girl, my big girl, my confident achiever.
This is because as a mom, I have one corner of my heart in the past, a chunk in the present, and a big hunk aimed at the future.
And so, when school break begins, we'll remove her training wheels. She'll get a lot of practice then. Every day a gang of kids gathers in our cul-de-sac. There are three Patience's exact age right here, and three Persistence's age right here, too. They run and ride free every day, while the moms hang back. I know that half of her best memories in life will not include me, and so I give her space and encouragement. Now and again, though, she'll still check in with me.
I hope she always does. My big girl. My confident achiever.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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