Like everyone in the world with a small child this week, I am looking at mine a little differently, through red-rimmed eyes and yammering "there but for"s and a mountain of questions about how to proceed in life given the warning shots, given the status quos, given all the unacceptable impossible things which turn out to be unacceptable, yes, but in fact horrifically possible.
How we proceeded was to get on an airplane to come back east for the holidays. Seattle is at its rainiest, darkest, coldest, and wettest. It might get rainier, wetter, and colder, but because this is in fact as dark as it will get -- dark by 4:30 and until 8:30 the next morning with full rain clouds all the time -- it's the nadir emotionally. My parents live in Maryland where when I was a child winters were freezing and miserable, but now, with new and improved global warming, it was sunny and nearly 60 today. Perfect bike riding weather.
D's bike at home has training wheels. And she hasn't ridden it in months (see above re: rain, wet, wind, cold, dark). My folks got a bike-for-grandchildren on Craigslist but it doesn't have training wheels. Here's how this went...
D: I want to ride bikes.
Me: It doesn't have training wheels. You are only four. You don't know how to ride a two-wheeler.
D: Yuh huh.
Me: Nuh uh.
D: Help me get on it.
Me: Can you ask nicely?
D: Help me get on it please.
Then I held the back of the bike. She got on it. I let go. She rode away.
Now listen, I learned to ride a bike myself once upon a time. Post-training wheels it was hard, scary, painful, and time consuming. I remember my sister learning to ride a two-wheeler. Years passed. She cried, screamed, tore her hair, rent her clothes, threw things, and refused to go near the bike again roughly 40 billion times. I thought my parents were going to have to give her away. (She is now a triathlete, so it worked out eventually.)
I have also watched movies, television, and commercials and therefore know that running along bent double while holding onto the back of child's bike seat then letting go, watching her fall, kissing her scraped knees, and wiping her nose then helping her up to try again and again and again until finally she wobbles a few teetering feet on her own before collapsing in a fit of giggles, giddy relief, and a return to my arms is a) a metaphor for letting her go which I must do, however much it scares me and b) a metaphor for her finding her way in the world without me, though it be painful for her and sometimes bloody and c) a right of passage we will both experience as a mixture of triumph, release, pain, excitement, possibilities, and doors both closed and open.
But no, my kid gets the hang of it right away with no coaching, no drama, and no emotions, metaphor free, just glad to be able to go outside and get some exercise.
But here's the rub: there's no such thing as metaphor free. Not in my universe. It's a sign of something. I just have absolutely really no idea what.
About The Author
Laurie Frankel writes novels (reads novels, teaches other people to write novels, raises a small person who reads and would like someday to write novels) in Seattle, Washington where she lives on a nearly vertical hill from which she can watch three different bridges while she's staring out her windows between words. She's originally from Maryland and makes good soup.