Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tenacity

"Mommy, you need to put Abby's pedals back on. She's ready for them," Ben informed me when I walked into the garage where they were putting on shoes and helmets to ride their bikes in the driveway.

At Abby's request, I had taken her training wheels and pedals off the week before so she could practice balancing on her little pink bicycle. She spent nearly two hours that morning hauling her bike up the hill of our driveway, turning it around, and coasting down. At first, she looked more like a bobble head, tipping back and forth from one foot to the other in attempts to keep herself righted. Occasionally she fell. A few times she grew teary or frustrated, impatient with the learning curve. Always, she got back up and tried again.

I sat in the driveway that morning and marveled at her determination. She would not, could not give up. After a harder fall, when the tears were slower to stop, I suggested we take a break for some water and a snack. She agreed, and we sat side by side for a few minutes. I wasn't sure she'd want to head back into the hot sun and continue wrestling her bike, but when she finished her granola bar, she tipped her head way back to see me from under her helmet and said, "Ih'm reahdy to trhy agaihn."

And back to the bike she went, dragging it up the hill one more time, turning it around one more time, hefting her leg over the seat one more time. This time, she made it to the bottom without touching down--and she smiled that coy, half smile she gets when she's proud of herself but doesn't want to let on. I cheered and clapped and made the kind of fuss only mommies can, and she continued on, growing more confident each time her body self-corrected the leaning bike without using her feet. By the time we put her bike away to pick Ben up from camp, the balance was second-nature. She had, through sheer will and perseverance, conquered this skill.

So several days later when Ben said Abby was ready for her pedals, I found the wrench and reattached them. That same coy smile graced her face in anticipation. Once the bike was ready, I had to beg her to please wait a minute before getting on so I could run in and grab the camera. I knew what was coming.

In true Abby fashion, she threw herself into the attempt without reservation, trying to put both feet on the pedals while standing still. She caught herself before falling and tried again. I encouraged her to start on a hill again so she'd have some momentum to give her time to get her feet on, and here her brother took over, explaining that when he first put his pedals back on, he started at the seam where the garage meets the driveway, using the slight slope to get himself going. Abigail listened to his coaching, moved her bike to the edge of the garage, and pushed off, stopping only after she had completed a few laps around the driveway. Ben smiled, I cheered, and Abby grinned. We now have two kids riding their bikes without training wheels. What a summer.

I learned something about both kids. Though I've always admired Abby's spunk and independent spirit, I hadn't realized just how tenacious she could be in the face of a challenge. Witnessing her resolve and stamina opened my eyes to the unstoppable force she will be when she puts her mind to something. I can't help but wonder what she'll attempt next.

And while I've always appreciated the kids' relationship with each other, I did wonder if Ben might feel a twinge of jealousy that Abby ditched her training wheels so soon after he did. But there was nothing but support and encouragement from him, like he hadn't even considered that her learning something he had just recently mastered himself would be cause for anything other than celebration.

As for me, I'm just grateful to be present to witness these milestones, to be available to coach and cheer and take snack breaks and document the monumental moments that spring out of mornings that begin so ordinarily...to live life at the speed of wonder.


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