My seven-year-old daughter has traded in her earthbound roots for two-wheeled wings. There were spills and tears those first late summer evenings when we took the training wheels off the red bicycle she has loved since she was five and it suddenly seemed as she might never ride it again. Balance, momentum, steering above all had to be relearned as time and again she ended up under the bicycle rather than on it.
By the end of the second session without training wheels, Emily had figured out it was better to take a spill in the grass than crash on the sidewalk, and if she forgot to brake it was better to bail out than hit trees and signposts. She started to put the pieces together and made it further each time she got back on "blaster" before coming undone. The gear we equip our children with now ensures that pride is all that gets injured.
The third day she could travel the length of the sidewalk in front of our house and beyond to the "Princeton" Elm hybrid that I bought for the town beautification committee and they kindly planted on our street. Then she made it to the Linden tree beyond. And seemingly just like that, she was on her way.
Getting going from a dead start is still a challenge for my little girl, but she muscles the bike into position and advances the pedal until she can lurch forward and regain her steering. Then it's away like a flash to pedal and coast, pedal and coast to the end of the street and back. Each time on her bicycle her boundaries expand, and I watch her delight in her newfound abilities and accomplishments with fatherly pride, and nostalgia, and a hint of sadness, marking each new milestone when roots come with wings.
Elias is more than happy to tear about on his small purple tricycle, but he too is finding his freedom. "Look Dad, no hands!" Next year, he will have the bike with training wheels. Turn, turn, turn.