Earlier this year, I got to enjoy one of those great moments parents have – the first day my daughter was able to ride a bike on her own. Yes, we took the training wheels off. And we both learned something in the process. After a relentlessly cold and gray winter, we had a beautiful day (finally), so the evening presented us an opportunity to break out the bikes. I wasn’t sure my 6-year-old, Lulu, would be ready to try without the training wheels, especially since her chances to ride have been few and far between over her brief life, but I had a hunch. And she did it. We experienced all of the usual stuff: the holding on, the fear, the negotiating, the letting go, the trust (both ways), the laughter. And the beautiful moment when I got to let her go on her own and watch.
Coparenting kismet: A chance to share our child’s milestone
There were a couple of surprises, though. As luck would have it, my ex got to see the moment, because it came at exchange time. That was nice. She also was able to catch the moment on video with her phone. Great again. But there was a twist in that as this was going on, my eldest daughter, Elizabeth, 10, was, as she usually is of late, buried in her iPad, and not showing much interest in what was going on. We all kept urging her to watch but she did it only in spurts. Two-second spurts. Quick glances up from Minecraft. So in the definitive video of Lulu leaving my hold, taking off on her own, and biking up the driveway, you can hear me say, or maybe shout, “Elizabeth!”
A great moment, missed: Is my parenting to blame?
I didn’t think much of it the time but when I watched the video I realized all of the colors and tone in my voice when I said that one word. It was part excitement, and part attention-grabbing: “Look up! This is it – finally.” But it was also part admonishment: “Come on, you’re missing it. Pay attention.” Part joy and part disappointment. And later I was disappointed with myself. Was there too much anger and frustration in my tone? Why? Am I a bad parent? How have I let it come to this that my daughter is so addicted to her iPad that she can’t focus on a wonderful moment like this? What other parent/child/sibling dynamics are going on here? Such is life and such is parenting. It remains the most challenging, beautiful, frustrating and special thing I do. So I want to know, when will I be able to take the training wheels off?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kimball Crossley is a professional baseball scout, a high school basketball coach, and a father to two young girls. He also the author of a children’s picture book, When I Am With Dad, which has a shared-custody theme. When I Am With Dad will be published Spring 2016. (Available for preorder now, let’s support a positive single-dad story! More preorders=more promotion by bookstores.) From the publisher: “Elizabeth is a girl who likes things just so. When she spends the day with Dad, sometimes things are a little bit different. She and her little sister, Lulu, take us through a day with Dad; and while everything may not be to Elizabeth’s taste, it’s about being with the person who loves you more than anything in the world. Learning to accept each other’s differences is all part of being in a family!”
A version of this post appeared previously on Kimball’s blog, When I Am With Dad.
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