My youngest daughter is five years old, with long strawberry-blonde hair and a contagious smile that’s missing two bottom front teeth.
She is quite capable, confident, and motivated for one so young, evident by her persistence to excel and her fearless, spunky spirit. She claims to be one of the few kindergarteners that can successfully maneuver a proper cartwheel and revels in the fact that she can count to 100 all by herself. She was by far the strongest and most active baby out of the six infants I carried in the womb.
Her latest venture, and by far the grandest, is learning to ride a bicycle. Several months ago, she inherited her older sister’s hot pink bike. The poor contraption was completely scruffy and dog-eared, sporting paint scratches from princess escapades of years gone by. It also featured two balding, flat tires. Nonetheless, my kindergartener was thrilled with the dilapidated cycle, her eyes twinkled with delight as she spied the mechanical contraption she would soon call her own.
New tubes and training wheels were slapped into place and she was ready for her first adventure. She hopped on, started to pedal, and instantly thrilled in her newfound freedom. But, the novelty soon wore off. She started riding only occasionally, unfortunately losing interest altogether.
Months later, my husband decided it was time to respark her curiosity. One Saturday morning, he removed a training wheel. She didn’t quite know what to think, but trusted her father and straddled the bike once more. She began to ride, leaning heavily sideways towards the remaining trainer wheel, wobbling helplessly to and fro. She practiced again and again, over and over, until she had mastered this new feat.
Later that afternoon, he dismantled the other training wheel. They convened to the backyard, beginning the slow process of learning the art of balance together.
She was determined for success. Her brow furrowed in concentration as she tried to stabilize herself. My husband clutched the seatback, gave her a gentle push, and accompanied her as she pedaled hard. They practiced time and time again, back and forth across the expanse of desert near our home. As she learned to control the ornery machine, she fell repeatedly. It was a difficult task. Things usually came easy for her. She skinned her knee and bruised her ego that day.
But, her stubborn ambition refused to let her quit. On Monday, she and her father started again. She wouldn’t give up until she had mastered that mechanized beast. They went out to the dirt road beyond our home for a fresh start. I hoped for the best and drove off to an appointment.
When I returned, it was dusk, almost completely dark. I spied the faint outline of a petite child on a tiny bicycle along the roadside. It was my kindergartener. I pulled over and watched her zoom past me, traveling as fast as her chubby legs could pedal, requiring no assistance. I could barely see her in the dimming sunset as she rode to the end and returned. My eyes moistened, realizing this momentous occasion would be the last time I would ever experience one of my children master the art of bicycling.
We both learned valuable lessons that day. Through the bloodied knees and tender tears, my daughter gained the value of perseverance, hard work, and to never accept defeat. I relearned something I’ve always known, that time is fleeting. My moments with my precious children are limited. All too soon, they’ll be riding their bikes off into the sunset without me, just like my youngest daughter.