At the end of last summer Plum and I decided it was time for him to lose the training wheels on the bike Janet’s children had outgrown and donated to us. Wrenches were found, bolts tugged, the extra supports for riding his bike were gone. Helmet and Gran snuggly attached, he eased down the driveway and onto the street. Several trips back and forth, he was so close. Lacking confidence though, he wasn’t ready to ride away from me. I didn’t communicate that confidence. I saw my little grandson, that baby, on a dangerous machine, traveling on roads with other vehicles trying only to crash into him. I saw rocks that would catch his tire and fling him 100 feet into the air and I couldn’t run fast enough to catch him. I saw other horrid children on their own bikes teaching him bad tricks like no hands and standing up and going ever faster away from me. My mouth said things like, “You’ve got this!” but the hand on his back surely said, “No no honey not yet.” I am not the teacher of next steps. The training wheels were reattached. Summer ended, winter came, a new spring is here. God knows our needs and gave us a Chef.
Yesterday the sun was warm and the breeze was light, the bus brought us a Plum and Chef decided it was the day. He didn’t warn either of us. Plum said no. I said no, only in my mind. Maybe my eyes said that as well to Chef but he wasn’t looking at me. Out loud I said to Plum I actually didn’t want him to ride with no training wheels because then I couldn’t keep up with him, I wasn’t sure of his speed. He said yes, gramps let’s go. I know I am not the teacher but I have a role to play as supporter, of gentle nudger. They found the wrench while I found a chair. As I got situated in the driveway for what was sure to be a long lesson and tears and several falls, I wondered if I should get band-aids ready, hide them in my pocket. Maybe an ice bag, no that would melt, a bit warm out. Still, as they prepared to ride, I prepared for the fall. He didn’t.
Within 5 minutes of Chef taking off the extra wheels, Plum was gone down the street, victorious and free. I missed the first joyous bit of freedom because I was still getting ready. He already was. This could be a story about the amazing teaching ability of Chef. It could be a story about waiting until a child is really ready before setting them up for a task. It really is a story though about understanding again and again that our children are meant to ride away from us. They may need a nudge, help removing the wheels, a more supportive hand on the shoulder, but ultimately, they must to go. As they leave, they need to know we are not sitting with the first aid kit in our lap, that kind of readiness does not speak confidence in their skills but rather our own inability to let a skinned knee be shouted to all that achievement is theirs. Covering every last boo boo also hides their hard work. I forget the air is healing for those scrapes also.
With twinkling eyes, Plum rode up to me as I sat in the driveway. My God he looks like his father. He arches one eyebrow, gives me a saucy wink and says, “Didja see that, Gran? I just burned out my tire.” Yes, yes, my sweet, I saw. I saw you riding away and I know you will ride further and further and still I will sit here for the times you ride back. I will celebrate your bravery as I sit with bandaids in my pocket. I will shout with joy that you can ride fast and go far, as my heart knows the babe I held and fed and nurtured is two less tires closer to me. Maybe it is because I am missing my children so much, maybe it is because the world feels os unsafe these days. I want only to hold him closer, Chef knows we have to send him out more.
My blessing list includes a grandpa who teaches you not to be afraid of the world and of leaving us a bit behind. My prayer list will always mention his safety and amazing adventures. I will also pray that we both have courage for all the chances he gets in the days and years ahead. Still, I will always have bandaids, bright colorful bandaids in my pockets. Just in case. Because while I know he is brave, I also know he is precious. His short little life hasn’t always been filled with people who have known that, my role in that regard is secure. As he grows older, his achievements more remarkable, it may be true that others will step in and step up to celebrate with him. My chair will scoot further back to allow others a front row view. I know he will always find me in the crowd and with a saucy wink, ask, “Gran, didja see that?” Yes, my love, I see you and am so proud of you. Chef will be right next me, knowing he gave the real nudge out into the world.
Also, today we buy a new helmet that fits.