Kipton got his first “big boy” bike for Christmas this year. It’s a blue Huffy with training wheels. And of course it had the one feature he insisted on — the world’s loudest horn.
Naturally, he grew more and more restless to try his bike as the winter dragged on. When it was finally warm enough for him to give it a try outside, he pedaled about four feet before getting off. “It needs gas,” he explained.
I figured that would be the way things would go for most of the spring, but he actually got right back on and pedaled down the street. I was a bit surprised — it had taken a lot of coaxing to get him on his trike the summer before.
A few days later, I felt confident enough that I loaded Eden into the stroller, leashed the dog and let Kip ride his bike as we headed down the street. We’d done a lot of practice using the pedals to brake, so I had him show me that he remembered how to do it as we got started.
It was hard to keep Kip at our pace, but he kept doubling back for us and was doing a pretty good job, all in all. A good enough job that when he asked if we could turn and go down a hill, I agreed.
Now, you probably know where this is going. I should have too, but I didn’t. The hill was steeper than I had remembered, and in no time Kip was uncontrollably racing down it.
I shoved the stroller into someone’s yard, let go of the pooch and ran after him. But I knew I wasn’t going to catch him. He was on his own.
“Brake! Braaaaaaaaaake!” But his feet were in the air as the pedals spun.
At the bottom of the hill the street ended in a Cul-de-Sac. I somehow had the time to think: He has his helmet on, he won’t die. It’s going to be ugly, but he won’t die. Because somehow I always feel like anything short of death is manageable.
Kip was flying when he got to the bottom. He turned slightly and navigated up a steep driveway, coming to a gentle stop just short of the garage. I caught him when he started to roll backwards.
I don’t really remember how either of us responded immediately, but I know I had to quickly run back to Edie, who was screaming after being left alone. And I do remember this: Giving praise doesn’t come easily to me, but I worked as hard as I could to let him know how proud of him I was that day.
In the moment, Kip forgot the lessons I had worked to instill. He was overconfident and a little careless. And I gave him permission to do something without really understanding the danger.
But when things got out of control, Kip stayed calm. When things were happening quickly, he thought quickly. When I couldn’t help, he somehow navigated himself through safely.
I guess there’s not much more we can hope for.