Monday, March 26, 2012

Look, Ma!

Yesterday I made the optimistic mistake of taking Le Petit running with me.  Not that I expected him to keep up with me on foot, but I thought he'd at least be able to follow along on his bicycle.  We'd surely be able to manage one loop of a nearby island in the Seine. Alas, no: he still pedals one minute, stops, heaves a huge sigh and declares, "I'm tired," and waits for me to push. I oblige, we pick up some speed with me ready to grab the handlebars to avoid clipping trees or passersby, and then we stop again.  After a kilometer of this, I was through.

"We're heading home now," I grumped.  Le Petit had abandoned his bike in a park to play hide-and-seek by himself and invent an imaginary landscape loosely based on our travels in France.  "And la Lorraine is over there, and Alsace is over here..."  It was cute, I had to admit.  You're here to have fun with your son, I reminded myself, not to, you know, break a sweat or anything.  Yet I longingly watched runners striding up and down the sidewalk.

Bike ten feet, stop, push, bike another ten feet, "Hey, Mom, that runner is in the bike line!", stop, push, ten more feet, "Hey, Mom, that bike is on the sidewalk!"  Stop again.  Le Petit giggled.  I sighed and gripped my patience with both hands and my teeth.  By that time we were nearing a wide pedestrian street, when le Petit asked me out of the blue:

"Maman, et si on enlevait les petites roues?"

Yes!  He wanted to take off the training wheels!  

Ever since before I became a mom, I've had a list of milestones in my head where I projected myself to my child's side (more or less in the background, as the occasion required): graduation, wedding, first apartment, first baby.  First bike ride without the training wheels.  I pictured myself running alongside my kid, proud, breathless.  Just like my dad did when I was a kid, and I can still see him chasing me, encouraging me as I pedaled my blue Schwinn down our dead end street in Olympia as I, a little bit terrified, wondered whether this big kid bike thing was such a good idea.  From time to time I'd mentioned to Le Petit that he could take off his training wheels if he wanted, secretly hoping that I'd be the one who'd get to share the moment, but he wanted to wait.  "When I'm five years old," he insisted, and I figured I'd just have to wait until July or whenever, really.  No pressure, of course.   

But I was thrilled at yesterday's sudden reverse decision. I took the wheels off, le Petit climbed on, and we took off.  The bike is technically a bit small for him and has a low center of gravity, so he managed pretty well from the beginning.  I also credit the pedal-less bikes they play with at recess at school.  He already understood that the key to stability is speed, and unlike me, he was unafraid.

He was circling Mars, he told me, and Pluto, and Saturn, and isn't it funny that they'd changed places?  "Watch out, I'm ready to turn!" he called. And he did, and I followed, ready to steady him when he wanted to stop.  He almost didn't need me except to help get the pedals going at first.  "Look in front of you!  In front of you!" I nagged nervously, as he still tended to look down as he pedaled.  I wasn't running along to reassure him so much as to help him avoid taking out joggers or poodles.  (And yes, he was wearing a helmet, of course.)

"Je ne ferais plus jamais avec les petites roues!"  he said proudly when we stopped.  No more training wheels, ever.  And to think I was there when it happened.

Also in the "Look, Ma!" category, Mademoiselle is becoming more and more of a climber.  On Friday evening as I was putting away groceries she climbed onto the dining room chair, grabbed a ballpoint pen and started scribbling on the back of the mail.  On Saturday -- as we watched carefully this time -- she climbed from the same chair to the tabletop, where she stood up in triumph, looking like she wanted to plant a flag.  The coffee table is minor summit in comparison, but there's no keeping her off of it now, and if she thinks someone will catch her she'll walk right off the edge.  Smiling. 

When she gets the opportunity, she grabs the plastic step stool from the bathroom and, tucking it under her arm, toddles around the apartment looking for new heights to scale.  She likes to place the stool in front of the couch, stand on it and jump off, throwing herself at the couch cushions. Needless to say we spend a lot of time closing doors and confiscating stunt props, and Mademoiselle spends a lot of time in her playpen.
When it's her turn, I expect she'll skip the bicycle training wheels and go straight for the motorized stunt bike.

Maybe I'll go ahead and buy her a bike helmet now.  You never can be too careful, right?


Ann Wyse said...

I had a really similar experience with my son last week.

For him, however, the *big moment* was this weekend when we installed a kickstand.

(Bikes with training wheels stand up just fine by themselves, of course. And here in the US, there aren't so many bike stands to park your bike at. So a kickstand was his right of passage.)

Cloud said...

Wow- no training wheels? Pretty cool. We're nowhere near ready for that here! Pumpkin (who will be five in a couple of weeks) is pretty timid on the bike. She has been working on braking lately.

And Petunia is always dragging the step stools around the place. It is cute, but annoying when she insists she needs the GREEN one, not the yellow one that is right there.

paola said...

When we were back in Italy last October, where we have all our bikes, Zoe declared she wanted to try riding without her training wheels. On she got and off she went! She had been scooting confidently for a year or so and that must have given her the confidence and certainly improved her balance. The very next day her dad, Noah and I went for a 10k bike ride round our town and she peddled away as though she had been riding training-wheel-less for ever. She was such a star and the pleasure in her face could be seen for miles.

Noah took to riding a lot slower, but I thing that says a lot about his personality. He won't do anything until he knows that he can pull it off completely, a lot like his mum. Zoe will give most things a go even if she isn't sure of success, like her father.

the milliner said...

Sweet! I think DS will be like @Paola's son for exactly the same reason. We'll see, but he's pretty comfortable on his trike now.

A friend mentioned the same thing about push bikes. His son had been riding a push bike from about 2.5-4.5. And this year at 4.5 he went straight to a two wheeler bike w/o training wheels.

We've got a climber on our hands. His dad & I both rock climb, so we find ourselves simultaneously wanting to cheer and say 'get down from there!' when he scales something not necessarily intended for climbing.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@Ann - No kickstand for the moment, hadn't even thought that far ahead! The bike is a bit small for him, though, and we'll probably have to start looking at "real" big kid bikes this summer...

@Cloud - I remember learning to ride without training wheels a lot later, when I was at least 5.5.

I'm glad I'm not the only mother with a kid dragging step stools around.

@Paola - Le Petit is more like Noah, usually; he'll wait until he's pretty sure he can do something well before he'll jump in. I noticed it with coloring, of all things. He hated coloring until this year, and I could see that he was frustrated that his motor skills just couldn't keep up with what he pictured in his head. When the teacher finally convinced to just go ahead and try it, I was relieved...

@the milliner - Ha! I can see Mademoiselle taking up rock climbing later. I never could manage it, and I've tried. I also remember being helplessly stuck up in the apple tree in our backyard as a kid, able to climb up but not get back down. I think Mademoiselle may be the tomboy my own mother wished she had, but didn't get.