When You Let Things Be

I love everything about changing seasons.  The rebirth and awakening of all the flora and fauna.  The gradually increasing days and the warmth that comes along with it.  We subconsciously find ourselves outside more often, not wanting a single moment of perfection to slip away.  Many days, we’re outside from the moment our preschooler is out of school (and finished with lunch) to the moment our 4th grader gets dismissed from school and our extracurricular activities begin.

After finishing our lunch today, my son and I decided on a bike ride through the neighborhood.  Sometimes we find our way to the park where we play at our imaginary restaurant or collect bugs.  Sometimes we make up our own adventures.  Today we just rode.  And as he was riding his bike complete with light saber handle bars and training wheels, I felt myself reflecting on milestones.  Here he is, 5 1/2 riding a bike with training wheels.  And I don’t care.  I could have pushed him, could have made him ride when he was disinterested.  Would it have helped?  Would he have ridden earlier if I would have pushed?  The short answer is no.  He wouldn’t have.  But society today says the contrary.  Nowadays, there’s a subtle competition to get kids to reach their milestones ahead of when they themselves are ready.  But I often wonder why.  Why push a child who’s not ready?  Is it bragging rights? We all recognize our children’s potential, why do we grow impatient when it doesn’t happen when we feel it should?  Maybe it’s the pace of our lives that dictates this need for quick progression.  We lead such busy lives that it often doesn’t lend us much time for downtime.  It’s hard to enjoy those little moments.  But alas,  the time that we have with our kids is so precious. And those moments are far too short.

We bought our son a balance bike when he was 2.  He gave it little attention before it began steadily collecting dust in our garage.  We took it to the school where our daughter attended so he could observe others using it, brought it along when we met up with friends, but never did he express desire to ride it (nor did he ever properly use it).  When he was 3 1/2, we bought a trail-a-bike to see if we could boost his interest.  He loved riding it but gained little skill with because he refused to pedal.  On his 5th birthday, we bought him the bike he’d been dreaming of.  It was a struggle to even get him to pedal to the next driveway on it.  For months we patiently coaxed him onto the bike.  There were many days of tears when we asked him just to try a lap around the block.  But one day, all that stopped.  He got on his bike to check the mail and he just rode.  Once getting to the mailbox, he decided to go around the block.  Then he asked to make more laps around the block.  We hadn’t done anthing different.  We hadn’t found the magic secret.  HE had found it within himself.  He had found confidence.

When evaluating our children and their milestones, it’s easy to get fixated on numbers.  They need to be potty-trained by two, riding their bike by four, reading and writing by 5, etc.  But why aren’t we looking at whether or not our children are developmentally ready?  Why aren’t we patiently allowing our children to find their own path?  I’d venture to guess that if we let things be for a moment, we’d see that our children are making the right amount of progress.  It’s ok if our kids are not the first one to conquer a milestone.  It shows that they are an individual.  It doesn’t always indicate a problem.  By pushing our kids or by attempting to speed up time, we not only provide a level of undue stress and pressure on a child that won’t serve to enhance their overall self-worth but it also diminishes the feelings of satisfaction and pride that come with overcoming an obstacle.

Two months ago, the mere mention of riding his bike sent our son into tears.  He didn’t want to ride his bike because he lacked confidence in his abilities.  By letting things be and allowing him time, we got to see him flourish instead of dwelling on the fact that he hadn’t yet learned to ride his bike.  I watched him ride today with confidence and know that he’s ready to make that leap into two-wheeled freedom.  In all honesty, I recognized this new found confidence about a week ago, but I’m letting it build knowing that by summer, he’ll be on his own.   My day was complete today because he accomplished his own milestone.  He conquered his fear.  And for that I am proud.