Training Wheels

a post by Seth, the Daddy:

Sundays seem to be a natural time for community to happen here at the apartments. Adults mill around the yard, converse, and steal away to sneak slices of key lime pie while children play in the yard, chalk the sidewalks, light-saber and force each other to the ground, or bicycle small circles in the well-worn grass. Some Sundays seem to prove a sort of foreordination, like the one two weeks ago.

The adults were sitting in the courtyard talking missiology, salvation, and Razorback football when Ike took to interrupting. “Daddy, the chain fell off… AGAIN!” Time after time, I replaced the chain, slapped the boy on the back and said “go get ’em!” One lap later, he was back, asking me to fix a once again sagging chain.

Several hundred laps into this broken record, Kevin paused Great-Commission talk, looked at me and said, “you know we can tighten that chain, right?” and he set out for his toolbox. Kevin returned with his well-used wrench, and we unbolted the training wheels so that the rear wheel could be moved back creating more tension on the chain.

Isaac watched, eyes wide at the sight of his bicycle without training wheels. It was too tempting and he said, “can I try?”

I remember being the can-I-try age. We lived on a narrow and dusty Texas road with one-foot-deep ditches on either side. When I was five I had less than perfect balance when walking, much less when trying to balance on two wheels, so those two ditches seemed for all the world like the rocky ravines running off the side of some Mexican mountain. Forgetting to keep it between them resulted in superman-like episodes of flying over handlebars. And that was before the kind folks at Toys-R-Us upsold parents helmets and knee pads with every bicycle, before safety sold.

I remember the taste of blood, dust, and tears and my Dad hoisting up from the bottom of those ditches telling me, “we’ll try again tomorrow night, son. Let’s go grab some supper.” I remember that one night I finally figured it out, only to realize that I hadn’t been taught how to stop. I remember aiming for the mulberry tree because, after all, I didn’t want inertia to carry me clear to the boarder. I remember the taste of mulberry bark, blood, and tears.

So I hesitated when Ike asked if he could take spin on that death trap, wondering whether we had rubbing alcohol and band-aids on hand. But when the dozen or so other kids assembled around him and told him to give it a try, I knew that it was time to let go. Peer pressure is such a motivator.

He mounted up and I held the back as he balanced. He began to peddle and I ran beside him, bracing for the fall. Then he said, “okay, let go Daddy,” and I did.

But he didn’t fall. Instead, he flew gracefully, balanced better than the five year old version of his daddy. He made lap after lap around the yard, washing the complex with the laughter that comes from that place of pure joy…

stopping only when he hit the grill.

About me


Kelly Langner Sauer
Reply October 2, 2010

lol - that ending! hurrah, Isaac!

Melissa Brotherton
Reply October 2, 2010

Ha! Yay for no training wheels. That was a scary moment for me as a mom. :)

Julie Fish
Reply October 2, 2010

So proud of Ike. I'd give you lots of kudos, Seth, IF you had the child's helmet on his head. Does Aunt Julie have to bring him one? $12. is not a mass safety campaign to generate big bucks. Aunt J's been to the ER!

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting
Reply October 2, 2010

I absolutely love this! (BTW, we made the same mistake, too. We didn't know we could tighten the chain, either.) And the ending! LOL! Love!

Miss you guys. A LOT a lot.

Reply October 3, 2010

Oh, how I love this! We're crazy rebels, too, who are foregoing the helmets and knee pads in exchange for some good ol' fashioned life lessons learned on the pavement. We haven't removed anyone's training wheels yet, but each of our girls has had some pretty spectacular wrecks. And still, they beg to ride every evening.

No training wheels are off yet, but our five year old is awfully close. Thanks for the dose of inspiration. Funny thing about that peer pressure . . .

Reply October 3, 2010

Love this!! So exciting! The grill...hilarious!

To Think Is To Create
Reply October 3, 2010

Aw, yay for the boy! What an epic day. Love.

Reply October 4, 2010


Ann Kroeker
Reply October 10, 2010

You were scratched and bruised before you flew, but your boy just took off! A thumpy landing, but he flew!

Isn't that what we want for our kids? Don't we want them to fly?

But before they fly, we have to risk bringing them in scraped up.

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