Monday, November 7, 2011
As a 30-something careening through life in suburbia, USA, I have two guilty pleasures: TV shows dealing with bigfoot/UFOs/paranormal and my Kindle e-reader.
So when I read that Josh Gates, host of Destination Truth, had written a book about his own adventures hunting the unexplained around the world, my two guilty pleasures suddenly came crashing together.
Enter a cold, rainy night with the husband hundreds of miles away on a business trip and a little man sound asleep in his room upstairs and I happily had night full of Kindle monster hunting.
But what I found was a simple reminder of the power parents have in shaping the lives of their children.
Backtrack a week or two ago and I was running behind the little man on the sidewalk in front of our house. We had taken the training wheels off of the little man's bike (at his request) and with my hand firmly on the back of his seat, we took off down the sidewalk in a futile attempt at teaching the little man the art of riding sans training wheels.
Like any rite of passage in life - especially in learning to ride a bike - the little man fell. After brushing him off and encouraging him to get back on, the little man had had enough and was done. We packed the bike away for another day.
Another day came and I packed the bike into the back of the car and we drove to the little man's elementary school, which has a large, flat blacktop. Perfect for teaching little ones to ride a bike, so said my neighbor as she undoubtedly laughed at my constant up and down, up and down circuit of the sidewalk in front of our homes as we tried one more ride.
But, no. The little man stood on the blacktop, refusing to get on the bike. I tried every bribe and promise that I could think of to get him back on, but he refused.
We got back in the car and drove home. I supposed he would get over it on his own, in his own time.
Now we're back to the rainy, cold night. I was in the beginning of the book, where Josh (the author) was starting his memoirs at where else - the beginning of how he came to be a modern-day monster hunter.
I was especially taken aback by a passage he wrote about his parents in where he attributed the confidence he has today to them:
"My mother, a vivacious and free-spirited young woman, grew up in tumultuous 1960s England and somehow found my father, a charming American deep-sea diver and self-made man. The two of them were endlessly supportive of my interests and passed on to me their humor and a confidence to follow my own path, as they had done."
And there it was - staring me in the face. A simple reminder that - more than we can ever imagine - the seeds that we plant in our young children today are what shapes the person they will grow to be tomorrow. I realized that I don't want to raise a boy who is afraid of falling. I want to raise a confident, free spirit. I want to raise a boy who not only falls down, but gets back up again and has the confidence to try something else equally terrifying the next day.
I want to raise a boy who lives life.
And I realized that it begins with me ... Just as Josh Gates' parents taught him to live adventurously.
Do I foresee the little man 20 years from now running through a jungle after a mythical reptilian monster?
But I do hope to see him confidently walking his own path in life, without a fear of falling down.
And at just 5 years old, I realized that the present-day drama of learning to ride a bike without training wheels was just as much a lesson for the little man as it is for me.
It's not about learning to ride the bike. It's about learning that life isn't something to be afraid of. It's about being the little man's biggest cheerleader and instilling confidence in him through my actions and support in all that he endeavors ... especially when he falls down trying.
It's about teaching the little man to live life without training wheels.
I wish I could end this blog with a story of me running behind the little man, letting go of his bicycle seat and watching him ride off into the sunset without training wheels the very next day.
But I can't.
It is still very much a work in progress. But the seed has been planted.
"I don't want you to think about the falling," I told the little man. "I want you to think about the ride and how much fun it will be. In everything you will do in life, it's all about the ride."
The little man stared at me with his big blue eyes.
"Mamma?" he finally said. "Can we go inside and have some Hawoweeeen candy now?"
I laughed and opened the door to let him inside.
He may not understand it now, but I hope that in time he does. I hope that someday my little man will acknowledge that I had helped instill in him the same confidence Josh Gates pens in his memoirs. A confidence that begins at home ... with a little boy and his parents.
And if the little man ends up running through a jungle after a mythical reptilian monster 20 years from now, that's just a bonus.
At least in my book.