Reflections, Freedom, Personal Growth Because of a Bike
Labor Day is the universal date marking the end of summer. Our summer included great vacations abroad, the beach, New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, California and camps. Our memory buckets are overflowing. And, I will look back on this particular summer as our oldest son’s “Summer of Freedom” combined with the byproduct of my “Summer of Personal Growth”.
Our son turned 15 in July. All he wanted was a bike. For his fifth birthday, I gift wrapped a tricycle for him. His four-year-old sister saw the wrapped gift and excitedly announced: “You got a bike!” He was disappointed that she “ruined” the surprise. There was no doubt that under the Sesame Street wrapping paper a bike was in there.
Ten years later, he wanted a bike. After bikes were stolen off our porch and there was a stretch of teens being knocked off their bikes by thieves in our neighborhood, we denied bike requests. Our son’s friend shared an extra bike and the boys spent hours riding around the neighborhood. Yet, my son wanted his own bike. He offered to pay for it. So, I stood between the bike and my fears. And, should the pendulum swing towards the bike, there would be a beautiful rite of passage for this teenager: independence and freedom.
A Birthday Wish, Agonized and Granted
A grandmother asked me what birthday wish she could fill. I told her about the bike and asked if she wanted to contribute to that. She called me back and offered a wonderful bike. My younger children went to see the bike and confirmed that this bike was the perfect size and he would love it. The siblings never mentioned the bike to their eager brother. My concerns about past crimes and the issue that we live on the West side of a very busy street that needs to be crossed to get into the neighborhood of friends living East of the main road was well known. Now, I held the permission to the gift of freedom. After restless sleep and with tremendous trepidation, I graciously accepted the bike.
Days later after a family dinner, we stepped onto the patio. The bike was revealed. Our reserved son beamed with happiness and his recessive dimple popped out. Grandparents, parents and siblings filled the porch to see this surprise. I imagine this moment was like someone receiving their first color television or their first car. With much gratitude, my son held onto the bike handles and quickly shared the safest routes to bike around busy roads. He had a responsible plan already worked out for this magical moment.
The Gift of Freedom and Independence and Letting Go, Riding off into the World
My son, through the bike, was given the gift of freedom. Throughout the rest of the summer “the guys” rode their bikes to various friends’ homes, the pool, the soccer field, the baseball diamond, the park, and on trails. I received photos of my happy son on his adventures. With a knot in my stomach, my heart was happy for him. I recognize that I lived through this agonizing decision.
His friends’ parents maintained stocked fridges, a welcome place to sleep, and space to lock up all of the bikes. It took an entire Village to lift my son, support his wishes to get a bike, and let him be a kid experiencing adventures and journeys. Deep in my heart, I know this is about me letting go. The experience of getting a bike at age 15, is very different than a 10-year-old getting a bike. From his parents’ point of view, the issues surrounding a bike at an older age feels much closer to getting a car – further travels in the City, navigating decisions, personal safety, unsupervised travels, and more. We still worry about him constantly, and I share in his happiness about his outings and experiences. Now, he has the opportunity to ride off into the world, on his own bike.