Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage, as is a parent running alongside the two-wheeler absent its training wheels.
Remember your first time? That instant you felt the sensation of flying free and pedaling “all by myself” into a whole new league with the big kids.
Noni’s younger sister was almost 5 years old, itching to learn how to ride her bike one early-summer Sunday. Off came the training wheels and out came the parents, taking turns blocking, tackling, and catching her before each fall.
That’s when we saw the pout and heard the whine, “I want my training wheels off too.”
Oh, my. Noni sees her little sister doing something she wants to do, but can’t.
We look at each other, and without a second thought my husband says, “Hey, she wants her training wheels off? I’m not telling her no. Are you? Okay then, I’ll take them off for now and put them back on later.”
So off they went, and off she went, flying. All by herself.
Bombeck’s take on this mother: “She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says ‘Momma’ for the first time, she will be present at a miracle and know it!”
There I was standing in my suburban driveway witnessing a miracle, along with our neighbors who came out to see her ride. Between excitement, laughter, and tears, I told my neighbor that I never thought I’d see this day. She replied, “Shame on you, Mom. Don’t ever put limits on her.”
I deserved that admonition. Me, the mom who prides herself in being progressive and raising this child to live life to the fullest. I had room to grow.
But Daddy heard and listened to her longing, even when it seemed impossible for her to ride a bike, given her motor impairments. We had been oblivious that years of joyful riding on training wheels back and forth and back and forth along the sidewalk propelled our now 8-year-old with enough practice to make it happen, against all odds.
Safe to say she stunned us.
And she was stunning on “Show Off Your Talent Day” at school. Daddy drove her bike to the school yard, where her inclusion classmates gathered, and she pedaled and beamed to their cheering and slapping of high-fives.
Afterward, a classmate approached her saying, “I wish I could ride a bike like you, Noni. I’m still learning.” Since special-needs kids rarely can perform better than typical kids, that compliment landed softly in my heart.
Admittedly, her turquoise Hampton Cruiser is not the fastest or flashiest, but it’s taken her far, from family fun to medal winning in Special Olympics.
If we let them, kids with disabilities will teach us this lesson: Prepare to be amazed.