Sometimes what I need is a good swift kick in my parenting behind; a new perspective.
Today, I got one.
And the giver of that kick has no idea what he's given, because as much as he deserves to have a poor me approach to life, he never does. Telling a story about his childhood is never meant to be a comparison or a lesson, but somehow it always is.
First, a confession. I don't particularly enjoy the process of teaching my kids to ride a two-wheeler. I've always found it tedious and frustrating. And though I do my best to apply patience, I often fail.
My dad was raised with the support of extended family members. But the constant and unconditional love of a parent? That's something he has never known. Due in part to their youth, the two people who held that role left before it even started: a hurt for my dad I cannot begin to imagine.
When I met him over a cup of tea this morning, he asked about our plans for the sunny afternoon ahead. I said we were going to work on two-wheeled bike riding with our son.
He told me the story of learning to ride the bicycle he found on his aunt's farm when he was a young boy. He spent his summers there. There wasn't anyone to teach him, so he set out on his own. He folded up a burlap sack from the barn and fashioned a seat on one of the lower crossbars of the adult-sized bike. His feet straddled and ran alongside the wheels hour upon hour until he felt like he could balance.
And then, like so many other times in his childhood, he pulled himself up to the place where only grown ups should be and he rode all on his own.
"It was the most amazing thing, realizing I could fly," he told me.
Not a trace of bitterness in his voice, even though there wasn't anyone there to clap and shout for him as he sped towards the horizon. I drove away from our morning chat remembering the feeling of my dad's hand on the back of my bike as he ran up and down our street until I felt ready to fly.
And this afternoon, I'll remember it again as I run alongside my son. And I will take in the sight of my husband and daughters as we cheer him on. And when he finally succeeds in taking flight, I'll try and capture the moment to give to my dad.
Because the smile that will break across my little boy's face when he feels like he's flying?
It should be seen.
And I want my dad to know it belongs to him, too.