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Taking off the training wheels and trusting her to ride on her own

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 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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we_be_toys said…
I am also of the school of encourage vs. push in the realm of child rearing. With a kid who is bright and maybe a bit of a control freak (these are my kids I'm talking about, btw), it has never been a good idea to push. Just like your little girl, my kids give answers like "Rome wasn't built in one day" to other kids, who just don't understand a word they're saying! I'm so glad we had two, so they have at least one other psuedo-genius to coalesce the human experience with.
Kyla said…
I loved this, Julie. All of it.
Mayberry said…
I love that you tagged this "touchpoints." It really is, isn't it -- and how funny which of these moments truly affect us.
Sukhaloka said…
Beautiful post, Julie.

I love how well tuned into your kids' thinking patterns you are, and how you work into their minds rather than imposing your own will on them.
Catherine said…
Way to go, Patience! I still wish I had training wheels on my bike...

BTW, I just posted my book review for "His Dark Materials" (The Golden Compass books). I'd love to know what you think, fellow thinker. :)

Unknown said…
You are a wise mommy. I too am the type to let them evolve at their own rate. Luckily, my daughter seems a lot like Patience. She is patient about growing up too fast and that is fine by me.
Kat said…
Wow! Taking off the training wheels is huge! My son is nervous on his bike even with the training wheels on. I don't think he'll let us take them off until he is 16.
I wonder if the caution is part of being the first child. My second son is not nearly as cautious. Hmmm
Way to go Patience!
Kat said…
Oh yeah, one more thing. I think it is quite a testiment to your parenting that she is so confident to be who she is, despite possible nagging children. She is obviously confident in who she is, and that is all thanks to you.
dharmamama said…
It's called mindful parenting, not slacker! lol I really enjoyed reading this.

Reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes, and his difficulties with his bike. My oldest learned to read because he identified so strongly with Calvin (not quite so mischievous, though!), and wanted to be able to read my C&H books.
Michele said…
I love your parenting philosophy and hope I can do the same for Zoe. Even at an infant, others are always pressuring us to make her do things before she is ready. Right now, it's giving up the bottle. She isn't really ready but everyone is telling us she must do it. I figure she'll do it when she is ready. So thanks for showing me the outcome of letting children learn in their own time.
What a clever girl - and an equally clever mommy (and daddy, I'm sure, but it's all about mommy here. Sorry).

Heidi :)
Anonymous said…
Great post, Julie. I wish I was half as aware of where my kids are coming from as you are.
painted maypole said…
so aptly "named" that child

(I mentioned a pet peeve in my post today, because i thought of one this morning!)
shay said…
I love that she sees herself as a "learning Child" what a gift you've given her.
jeanie said…
Awww - it is such a moment, when the training wheels decision comes.

'Salina was not going to be pushed into it and decided when she was good and ready.

I only wish I had your words when the nagging from other well-wishers were ringing in my ears at all stages... Oh for that strength.
Great story... I love these milestones in life.

One thing though, and I'm only mentioning this out of total love for you and Patience, but I sure hope she wears a helmet when she rides. When my son was about her age he fell over and cracked his helmet shell, and didn't get hurt - but only because of the helmet.
Laura said…
What a great post.

Right now I am seeing a similar pattern with swimming - and the boys' true characters are coming out. DJ (now 4) is so cautious and Anderson (now 3) is the dare devil.

I like your expression "confident achiever" that is my DJ. Anderson is my "chaotic achiever"!!!!

Thanks for sharing!
Aliki2006 said…
Beautiful! I love how you conceive of your children, and how you understand their spirits so well!

I love that picture, too.
Cristina said…
Patience sounds like a wonderful child. So independent and confident.

And this was such a lovely post. It will be nice for her to read when she's older.
Julie Pippert said…
Despite this photo, I want to assure everyone Patience has a helmet and does wear it. Thanks for caring. :)
Melissa said…
What a nice post! It's so nice to just let them go at their own pace. :)
Anonymous said…
"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." This line really touched me. I feel like I am torn all the time between was, is, and will be. Thanks for putting it so beautifully.

Lawyer Mama said…
"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." Ouch. My heart.

I try to do what you do - encourage, but don't push. It's hard to stomp down that darn Type A beast, but worth it in the end, I think.
flutter said…
she is a brave one
Girlplustwo said…
i love her. i love that she is still a learning child.
Unknown said…
Beautiful post. Really. Something I wish my Mom had known about me- and appreciated.
Anonymous said…
"half of her best memories in life will not include me"

Now that's a truth only wise parents accept.

Emily R
Christine said…
i just love that you know your little ones so well.

my girl is 6 and a half and can barely ride With training wheels!

i'm over it though! LOL
Running on empty
I've been raising children for 16 years now, and I don't think there is any moment more exciting (except birth, of course) than when you see them take off down the sidewalk without those training wheels. I'm always jumping up and down and cheering them on.

Teaching them to drive, however - that's a different matter.

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