You often looks for traits of your own in your children, you search for your strengths and beam with pride when you realise that they shine through in your children. What you don’t want to see are the pieces of you that you feel hold you back, the personality traits that you work on, the little pieces of you that leave you exposed and vulnerable.
When I was younger I was a cautious child, fairly different to how I am as an adult as now I fake it until I make it, I didn’t want to do anything until I knew I could do it. I stood on the edge and watched, drinking it all in before summoning my courage and going in. Anything I felt I couldn’t do dented my confidence so I didn’t do it. I shied away from introducing myself to new children fearful that they wouldn’t like me, loitering on the edge until I was noticed and invited to play. Despite all of that I was, and still am, a little social butterfly. I love people. These days I love trying new things, experiencing new adventures, I don’t even mind failing. Back then? Not so hot on the failing idea.
I didn’t want the same for my boys. Yet it would seem that my eldest is following more in my footsteps than his fathers. My cautious little boy. Always watching before doing.
The case of the bike
When the Big One turned four he asked, very nicely, for a bike. Despite the fact that previously he had shown no interest in having a bike, or indeed had any inclination of how to pedal. Every time we had shown him a bike before he sat on it, pedalled backwards, declared he couldn’t do it and got off. You can imagine the frustration as he sat on the bike and refused to pedal round the track on a beautiful red kids bike at my mums local Halfords this summer. Especially for my husband who errs more on the side of our second fesity son, just do it, rather than cautiously watching. So we put it to the back of our minds and forgot about it. Waiting for his lead.
Then he asked again for a bike for his birthday.
So despite the fact that him not trying goes against our family rules, one of which declares “you must always try your hardest”. And getting off a bike and declaring you can’t do it isn’t trying your hardest. Despite all of this, he promises that he will try. He really, really, really wants a bike.
So his birthday rolls round and we buy him a bike, a snazzy helmet and start the journey towards showing him how to pedal. Have you any idea how impossible it is to say with words something that comes so naturally to you? Can you even explain how to pedal other than shouting PUSH DOWN AND ROUND, PUSH, PUSH, PUSH. Reminiscent to giving birth I’d imagine (except of course I’m too posh to push so wouldn’t know about that)
So we have kept on and on with him, my cautious child. Encouraging him. Bigging him up. High fives as those pedals roll round. Jogging next to him.
Then one day he *kinda* got it. Except for hills, he won’t ride up hills. But then again, I don’t like doing that much either.
He’s just like me
Watching him, stubborn and resolute in his determination not to try reminded me of a little girl who was the same. Who was afraid to fail, cautious and always watching rather than just leaping in. Until stubbornness won out.
It took until I was 6 before I even considered taking my armbands off in the swimming pool, it was the same with my bike and the stabilisers.
That beautiful shiny red bike with the white handlebars that was my pride and joy. I remember hours riding up and down the street back when we lived on the Wirral. We lived in a cul-de-sac and there was a slight curved hill opposite our house. Each and every day I took that bike outside and rode around to the top of the hill before riding down, pushing the indents on the handlebars with my little fingers pretending I was riding a motorbike, faster and faster.
I refused to have those stabilisers off. Instead I delighted in riding it round secure in the knowledge I could ride.
I remember my dad taking them off, running through Birkenhead Park with me and glancing back when I realised he wasn’t holding on. Then promptly falling off.
That was the end of no stabilisers for me.
I refused point blank to have them taken off again. My dad put them back on for me that night and never mentioned it again. Letting me work through at my own pace. So it continued, I rode round with stabilisers on, happy and secure in the knowledge that I wouldn’t fall off.
Until one day, stubbornness won out. I looked around and everyone else was riding their bikes, if they could I could too. So in my own time, with my own decision, those stabilisers came off.
Then that was that. There was no stopping me.
Off I went, bike after bike through the 1990’s though I never managed to get the ultimate goal of a BMX.* Instead I got a mint green bike with a saddle bag on the back and watched the boys at school try and pull wheelies on their BMX bikes. Race around as fast as they could against each other during cycling proficiency.
Me? I just kept on riding that mint green bike, complete with Kelloggs bike reflectors (remember them?!?) on the front AND back wheel, I was that cool.
I’ve come a long way since the first days of that red bike, not only do I no longer need to use stabilisers, I am no longer afraid to fail.
The bike and the Big One
Realising that the Big One is just like me as a child has made me approach things differently. He won’t respond to “just being pushed in the deep end” unless he jumps in the deep end himself. He needs encouragement, and time to practice. He needs help in understanding that everything doesn’t have to be perfect first time and sometimes it’s more fun to keep trying. He needs us to turn a negative into a positive and to work with him.
It’s OK to be cautious, it’s OK to be shy, it’s OK to have the traits I have, or had.
Because knowing that my little boy is just like me means I know that one day, the stubbornness will override the cautiousness and off he will go, riding his bike without stabilisers, swimming without armbands, running into a room without hiding behind my leg, shooting that football goal.
He will fly like the wind. In the meantime I will be there to help him get those wings ready to spread.
*the BMX was THE bike of the 1990’s, costing £100 back then, equivalent to £200 in today’s money. I was just never cool enough to have one.