By Guest Blogger Laura Simon
My oldest son finally learned to ride a bike over the weekend. And when I say finally, I mean finally. It’s been four years since we optimistically bought him a 19-inch bike with training wheels, and at least three years of him poking gingerly along the pavement, figuring out when to push the pedal and when to quit pushing. He spent last summer leaning gingerly to one side, his weight resting on the left training wheel, wobbling precariously every time he rounded a bend. By the time he was six, I was running out of patience and beginning to worry that we might have to send him college unable to ride a bike. For months, I made him ride laps around the cul-de-sac every time we went outside, begging him to do just a few more while he begged to quit and ride his scooter. I finally put the bike away for the winter, and we all heaved a sigh of relief.
I dragged it out again on Saturday, dusted off the cobwebs, decided the training wheels were an unnecessary crutch, and took them off. I tried holding my son upright to help him feel his balance. I tried letting him ride in the grass. I tried every Pinterest trick known to man. Finally I gave him a push and told him to do his best. He hovered in the right position for a second, then wobbled and went over. He was close, but he was just moving too slowly to actually stay upright. “Pedal faster!” I told him, but he couldn’t seem to do it. At one point, I’m pretty sure he accused me of trying to kill him. Don’t believe the people who say little girls have cornered the market on drama. My boys have turned it into an art form.
And then my neighbor, who has three kids already riding bikes, whispered to my son what her husband told their kids. “Don’t look down at your feet on the pedals. Look where you want to go. So if you want to get to that mailbox, keep your eyes on it.”
That was all it took. I guess he really wanted to get to that mailbox. It sounds so simplistic, but it really was that sudden. He couldn’t ride and then he could. Within days, he was riding up hills that would do me in. When he quit staring at his feet, he quit toppling over. It turns out that perspective matters a great deal.
While it never occurred to me that this principal would be helpful for bike riding, I’ve certainly heard it before. I remember my dad telling me to keep my eye on the ball while he pitched it to me in the backyard. And years later, during my first drive on a real road, he said it again, only his face was red and the veins were bulging out of his neck. I don’t blame him. While I was trying to stare down the road right in front of the hood, the whole right side of the car was pretty much in the ditch.
I watched my son circle the cul-de-sac again and again, contemplating how profound and earth-shattering my neighbor’s words were, and then I walked into my house and looked right down at my feet. Not literally. No, I looked at the kitchen sink, full of dishes to be loaded and unloaded. And I glanced at the dryer, full of clothes to be folded. And I noticed the floor under the table, the one I mopped just the day before, and saw it covered with crumbs. And instead of focusing on the beauty of the day and the joy on my son’s face when he finally conquered one of his giants, my heart saw all the things still to be done and it slumped to the ground.
The work of parenting has to be done, to be sure. And it really is unrelenting, and often difficult, much like learning to ride a bike. But there’s no benefit to letting it rule my mind. I have the choice to stay focused on the business I’m really about – raising tiny humans to be good, kind men and women – even while I fold towels. It’s when I lose the big picture that I fall completely apart, and discouragement and despair take over.
When I forget to look where I’m going, I give in when I should follow through. And I take a hard line when I should show grace. When I forget to keep my eye on the ball, I clean the bathroom myself because that’s easier than teaching the kids to do it. When I forget to look down the road, I pass on the chance to read with my kids before bed because I need to get work done before I sleep. When I look down at my feet, a teachable moment is nothing more than a punishment.
Perspective changes everything. It’s the difference between riding forward and scraping my knee. It might just be more important to my parenting journey than wine, chocolate, and coffee combined. And my perspective needed an adjustment.
How about you? How do you keep yourself focused on the big picture in the mundane and difficult parts of parenting?