As I mentioned before, we bought Rafi a big boy bike–he really wanted one in Israel because a lot of his friends already had bikes, but we couldn’t buy it for him then and promised him one as soon as we arrived in Portland.
The first time I took him out riding, I was so scared I ran after him the whole time. Needless to say, being 34 weeks pregnant, I was wiped out for the rest of the day.
I talked to him about it.
-You don’t have to run and keep up with me, Imma.
-I’m worried that you get so far ahead of me, what will happen when you get to the corner?
-I will stop and wait for you to catch up!
-You won’t ride into the street?
-No, I will stop!
-What about if you fall over?
-I will catch myself!
The next time we went out, Rafi rode ahead and stopped carefully at the first corner, but at the next corner he couldn’t stop. All the corners slope downhill to the street and are hard to stop on. He rode right into the street. Whoops! After that he learned to stop in advance of the corner, before the downhill part starts. A little bit later I saw him practicing with the brakes, just in the middle of a long straight stretch of sidewalk. Later, on a downhill, he learned that when you’re going very fast, stopping takes a long time. That’s the only other time he rode out into the street. I don’t let him do downhills that intersect busy streets.
I know taking training wheels off is a well-used (if not hackneyed) metaphor for letting go. Forget about the training wheels, just giving up control enough to let Rafi ride out ahead of me feels like a very big act of letting go. He’s a conscientious child, which helps, but he’s still four!
I was worried when we left Israel that Rafi would be giving up quite a bit of independence (mostly potential at this point since at his age kids still walk around with their parents, but starting at age 9, kids in Israel are allowed to go around by themselves, and they’re allowed to be unattended at the playground starting at about 6). I’m happy that this is a way he can feel like he’s growing up and taking some responsibility. I don’t walk his bike across the street, he does. When he falls he catches himself. He puts his helmet on by himself and takes it off by himself. As he gets older, the level of responsibility and independence will grow accordingly.
As I’ve said to Jeff, Rafi’s still a preschooler, but I can already see the kindergarten child he will become. Some things are easy for me to let him take control of; the bike is a hard one, and I know it’s just the beginning.