I felt a pang of sadness this August as parents posted pictures on Facebook of kids heading off to school. My son started college this fall, which makes me very proud, but sharing that school experience with other parents will now be diminished. Not as much as if he were attending college far from home, I suppose, but changed nonetheless. I’m reminded that this is yet another milestone as he moves into adulthood.
This made me think of an essay I wrote more than a decade ago that marked another passage of my son’s childhood. This wasn’t as big certainly, but it remains memorable because it reflects this journey we are on. Here it is.
We recently retired my son’s first bike. It’s now referred to as the “little bike” and sits rather forlornly in the corner of the garage, gathering dust. The paint on its frame is chipped and it rides a bit more haltingly these days, owing to bad spokes. But on those occasions we inadvertently leave the new bike in the trunk, the little bike gets wheeled into the sunlight for one more chance to relive its glory days.
My son was just 2 ½ when my then husband Tom and I first discussed giving him a bike for Christmas. He had spied some older boys whizzing around the playground, had even asked for a ride or two, and that was all it took. There was nothing else on his Christmas list that year. While I had envisioned something tamer (a tricycle perhaps), Tom seemed to understand his son’s desire and did the shopping himself.
When he proudly wheeled the little bike into our living room, I gasped. “It’s too big. Evan’s not ready to ride something like that, he’s practically a baby.”
“Don’t worry,” Tom replied gently, “it’s got training wheels, he’ll grow into it.”
I wasn’t convinced, but of course, he was right. The look on Ev’s face that Christmas morning was one of pure delight. He climbed onto the bike, his feet barely touching the ground and beamed like the Cheshire cat as he pedaled around the dining room.
By springtime, he had graduated from riding up and down the driveway to making excursions around the block; and before long, I was dusting off my old 10-speed to join him. Together we set about exploring the neighborhood. One early adventure took us to a small park near the house where we leaned our bikes against the trunk of an oak and ate lunch under its sprawling canopy.
As summer passed, I began to realize that our bike rides weren’t really about destinations, for it didn’t really matter where we went. Rather, it was the journey itself, often rich in discovery that made our rides special. We’d uncover hidden treasures in the neighborhood; a tiny mole that had ventured too far from home, rock piles that needed climbing, trains with whistles so shrill we’d race to watch them rumble past. Our neighborhood took on the feel of a small town, with our favorite haunts: the bakery, the library, the Goodwill store, all steeped in memories of the trips we’d made.
Best of all, I’ve learned a lot about my son during our time together. I see traits I wasn’t aware of before, like his eagerness to lead, his dogged persistence, and his ability to handle frustration and challenge. As for myself, I’ve focused on being more patient and reveling in the simple pleasures of life. While my son has outgrown the little bike, the road to discovery it opened to us will forever continue to unfold.