The Day I let go of the Handle Bars


April 15, 2013 by CassieCravings



About a month ago, on Eli’s 3rd birthday, he received a tricycle. And since that day, he has been trying to master the steering of said tricycle.

On such a beautiful Texas spring day, Eli and I decided it was the perfect time for another tricycle lesson.

I was trying. I tried to give instructions like, “Point your wheel where you want to go” and “Straighten it up.” He was trying. He pointed to his wheel and showed it where to go. He sat up very straight and tall. All of the trying between the two of us did not open our line of communication. I didn’t know another way to word the instructions. He didn’t know how to put these abstract instructions into workable action.

We both sighed. I collapsed onto the curb. The sun was beaming down on top of us. Little Eli leaned his chin onto the handlebars and pushed back soggy curls. His persistence showed in his furrowed brow. His weariness showed in his down-turned eyes. I smiled at him and patted his arm. “We’ll get this.” He nodded. I wasn’t sure if it was a nod in agreement or just in acknowledgement.

I stood up and brushed off the East Texas pollen from my yoga pants. He waited patiently for instructions. “Just drive,” I shrugged. I swear I could see my cautious child’s heart skip a beat. But he stretched his legs to reach the pedals and slowly began to inch down the street.

I stayed close. I grabbed the handle every time a car turned our way. I pushed him up hills and slowed him on the downward slopes. But I didn’t say a word.

The first time he ran into the curb, he quickly looked back at me. I smiled, “What do we do?” For a moment, he pondered that question. His eyes darted from his dangling legs to his pedals to the curb. Suddenly, he picked his tricycle up and physically turned it back towards the street. This happened a few more times.

I continued to support him, to follow him, to protect him. But I stayed quiet. I watched him learn.

Within a few run-ins with the curb, he began to steer before the collision. Before long, he was taking corners without slowing down. By the time we arrived at our favorite walking trail, I was jogging to keep up with the plastic wheels clicking on the pavement.

The moment I stepped back…let’s be honest: the moment I stopped hovering…my little one was able to rely on his problem-solving skills to find out how to drive his tricycle. I never left his side. I was there for any moment that he would need me. I was there to keep him safe and to encourage him. But I let this learning experience be about how he needed to learn, not how I knew how to teach. THEN he was able to figure it out.

We finally made it to the park. He raced down the slide and tried to touch the clouds in the swing. Our cheeks were pink with excitement, play and sun.

On our way back home, I noticed that my newly pro tricyclist was starting to go off course. When I inquired what was going on, my curly headed boy responded, “I can’t drives my bicycles and swleeps.”

That last bit of the trek was a challenge as I pushed a tricycle and carried my snoring not-so-baby boy. In fact, I had to call my husband to come rescue us just a couple of blocks from home.

Today Eli learned how to steer his tricycle. Today I learned to trust my son’s learning process. It wasn’t without its mistakes, but from his mistakes he was able to overcome and to conquer what he has been working towards for weeks. Today my curly headed boy is a bit more independent, a bit more grown up and a lot more confident in his own learning process.

Teaching is about letting go

8 thoughts on “The Day I let go of the Handle Bars

  1. mymotherlied2me says:

    I love this post. Congrats to Eli :)!!

  2. Jo says:

    Lovely 🙂 Ethan is only 10 months but even now sometimes I think I’m overprotective!

  3. Afton says:

    Beautiful. Thanks for the new smile on my face 🙂

  4. Julie says:

    Isn’t it amazing how our kids manage to figure things out when we quit hovering. My seven-year-old is into “making recipes”. Especially memorable was the cake she made into which she put probably a quarter cup of baking soda. Needless to say, the cake was inedible. I try to teach her what things go well together, but she is one who needs to learn by getting in there and making her own mistakes. Forget following a recipe. She wants to make her own.

    And you know what…I’m willing to bet that eventually, she will be an excellent cook. In the meantime, I need to be alert to what is going into her recipe and rescue the more expensive ingredients before she dumps a large amount in to a recipe that I can see is destined for the disposal.

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