This kid I once knew was frightened of most natural things. He wasn’t that kid that would play in the mud, find insects in the bushes and pluck their wings and legs when no one was looking. He loved going outside but preferred to play sports with friends or ride his bike.
I persisted by taking him on long walks through the forest. Inevitably he hated every second of our long walks since to him the trees were huge green monsters and flying insects usually flew into ears and eyes and noses. I continued by teaching him the names of the birds that flew by. Adding in the occasional wow, look at that beautiful blue dragon fly! To which he would reply while covering his ears and with fear in his voice… “OH, A DRAGON-FLY!”
I thought about it and decided to stick with what he liked rather than trying to turn him into my nature loving self. I brought him to the park to continue his cycling lessons and was certain that training wheels were only great while kids still needed them. See, I didn’t want him to be that kid with the exhausted training wheels, or the kid who had to brake the training wheels off himself. Yup, the training wheels were long gone as of 8 am that morning! Yes, I’m one of those people who doesn’t encourage kids to wear knee and elbow pads either. I figure why prepare children to fall? No, it’s best they don’t know falling is likely! Anyways, even if he did know, it was best he got the falling over with. He got on the bike and I did what all people do when they’re teaching a kid how to ride a bike. Holding onto the handlebars and the back seat I told him to peddle fast while I ran alongside the bike. “Yes, using the brakes will be the same as it was with the training wheels on,” I told him. I even explained the importance of putting his feet on the ground to steady himself when the bike had stopped.
Assuring myself that I had prepared him as best as I could, I held onto the handlebars and the seat eventually letting go of the handlebars and only holding onto the seat of the bike. He was a natural. As I thought that I suddenly realized I was teaching him the same way I had learned. Trade in the concrete I learned on for the pebbled ground I was presently teaching him on. The lot was closed off at either end by boulders, and bushes which I never thought anything of at the time. He did have one thing I didn’t have though…he had a helmet, which was fastened on tight.
Knowing I had done my due diligence I let go of the seat and let him ride away, I was proud. He was now independently, happily and very proudly riding his bike without training wheels.
From a distance, I saw him flinch and shake his head. He didn’t let go of the handlebars though. Then I saw it…the beautiful dragon fly.
I’m sure it was only trying to congratulate him on riding without training wheels. It flew straight towards him again, he turned the handlebars trying to avoid it. He turned again and started going towards the other side of the lot. He was now peddling full speed and was too far away from me to help. He was headed straight towards the bush, then the boulder, then the bush. I tried covering my eyes but couldn’t. Every boulder very quickly became a bush as I winced and then yelled, “HIT THE BRAKES…JUST PEDDLE BACKWARDS!!!!! He ran out of time and made a decision I wouldn’t understand for many years to come. He was so afraid of most natural things that so floundering in that bush was not an option, he decided to ride directly into the boulder instead.
So, I ask you is fear such a bad thing? In the end of it all, I was just glad that he knew himself well enough to make a decision that was right for him. Riding directly into the boulder wasn’t at all traumatizing considering the alternative of venturing into that vile bush! Yes, it wasn’t the decision that most of us would have made but, he had made a decision. Helmet in hand, dust on his face from the encounter; aside from a few scrapes on elbows and knees, all was well. Tears did fall that day, some of them were his but most of them were mine. Yes, I cried as he rode off again with his back straight as always, I cried because in that moment I had a glimpse of the man he would eventually become. I also realized in that moment that figuring out how to confront fear or simply deciding not to confront it is an individual decision. Really and truly, it’s what you do after hugging a boulder that matters most.
You know I never leave without cautioning you from something or giving you some sort of advice, so here goes. People, parents, grandparents, caregivers, uncles and aunts could it be time that we just let go of the bicycle seat?
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