I’m not really a sentimental guy, as of late. I guess the life of a special needs parent requires you to toughen up a bit, but there are still times where I start to get a little weepy, nay emotional. Cutting grass for the last time in the fall comes to mind. Hearing the crunch of the leaves reminds me that fall is here, and cooler temps are about to prevail (and no more grass cutting!), while at the same time I know the warm days of summer are long gone.
Similarly, an experience this past weekend “got” me a little, after we were home and I started reflecting on it. We went Christmas shopping for Collier while he stayed with his grandparents. Our primary goal was to buy him a new bicycle, as he has pretty much outgrown his current one. This was both a joyous time and one that choked me up a little.
You see, just last month marked four years since Collier learned to ride a bike without training wheels – something we thought we would never see. There are lots of folks on the spectrum who never learn to ride a bike. They may excel at other areas in life, but handling the steering, peddling, and balance all at once are just too much. Every October 5th, though, a video from 2016 pops up on my newsfeed reminding me of how far he has come.
In that video, he is riding his first bicycle in a circle around me, without training wheels, and multiple times I have to restrain myself from reaching out to grab him, to protect him, to keep him on track. But I never touched him. He did it all on his own. After this Christmas, that will be two bicycles ago.
Cut to the present. We upgraded that bicycle a couple of years ago, and we drag his current bike to every campground we go to, and I always let Collier lead the way. I follow at a distance, doing the same thing I did four years ago, though instead of reaching out to catch him, now I’m directing him: Take a left up ahead, watch that pothole, be careful there, be sure to use your brakes on this hill. Still trying to protect him, trying to keep him on track.
Now that bike is getting too small. (The kid grew two inches this year alone).
So when we went to “the Walmarts” to get him a new bike for him, I got a little emotional. The size bike we got him was for adults, from 5’2” to 5’10.” How is that possible? How is it possible the small dude that a few years ago was wobbling around on a kid’s bike now needs a bike made for a full-size adult? (And yes, he is 5’2” – maybe a tad more.)
I get a little weepy thinking about how far he has come. If I think back further, beyond four years ago when he first started riding without training wheels, I remember how I used to run alongside him holding the seat of his bike as he rode around the campground. How he begged me not to let him go, even though I did for short stints of time. Or I begin to think about how I would push him and let him go and Amye or her dad would catch him twenty or thirty yards away. For a while he could ride, but not stop.
And now here we are, buying an adult-sized mountain bike. This one will take a little training and getting used to. There are rows of gears and what looks like about fifty speeds. And disc brakes on the front! But he’ll learn this one, just like he learned the ones before, and as always, I’ll be right behind him, trying to protect him, trying to keep him on track. Guiding and directing.
I’m not sure I’m quite ready for him to be this big. In the past year, he has grown up so much. He learned about Santa Clause and the tooth fairy, though he’s yet to ask about the Easter Bunny. I’m sure that’s coming. Even last week, when he lost one of his last remaining baby teeth, I asked him if he wanted to put it under his pillow. He said, “Nah.” He has to wash his face with a facewash morning and night to prevent acne, and the days when deodorant was just a good suggestion are long gone – it’s an absolute must now. I’m still not sure I’m ready, though I do have to admit, when just the two of us go somewhere together, it’s cool to have him up front in the car.
Did I mention the other Christmas gift we bought on this outing? It was an electric razor for that little ‘stache he’s starting to sprout…
I’m not ready.