Training Wheels

My kids are growing up. Despite all the chaos, chatter, and questionable choices in their young lives, I see they really are growing up. As I helped my wife prepare for a fall home school semester, I asked God how to adjust my teaching approach for our maturing student population. He faithfully showed me that I would do well to get out of the way and let Him do what He had planned to do all along. As usual, the Lord was very creative in getting my attention.

Wild patterns of purple and gray painted the solid bank of puffy clouds through which the sun peeked, fashioning islands of sunlight across the park meadows. I marveled at the spectacular Sunday afternoon sky while two precious daughters gleefully spun around the parking lot on mangled bicycles.

This was a day when God’s grace rained down like the brown needles from my neighbor’s under-watered pine tree. My girls shouted joyfully as they sped past each other. Birds chirped their approval of the blessed afternoon. Men on the basketball court loudly swore at their opponents. I anticipated all the new words I would hesitantly define for my girls.

These were the last days of our “summer school.” My wife set aside the “Three Rs” for three hot months and taught history. Coach Harrell promised to teach his girls to ride their bikes without training wheels. Of course, I had procrastinated on my lesson plan and now hoped to squeeze ninety days of instruction into three weeks.

Our training regimen began in spongy grass at the park across the street. I figured grass would soften any crashes, but I had underestimated my daughters’ natural ability to fall. Now the girls were practically immobilized by the helmets and body armor I strapped on them. It is amazing to see how many ways a child can smash her bike and herself into the ground. It is amazing to find how many thorns can hide so well in grass. It is amazing to learn how long it takes to change four bicycle tubes when my three- and one-year-old boys are “helping.” My frustrating bicycle repairman duties convinced me to move our lessons from the not-so-lush grass to the unforgiving concrete parking lot.

As each lesson began, I prayed for my girls’ safety and joy. I also prayed for their victory and encouragement as they attempted something big in their little lives. After a couple of weeks’ effort and a jillion tumbles and tears, both young cyclists could pedal and turn on their own without training wheels. So here we were on a lovely Sabbath afternoon as they polished their skills and I watched the sky.

My heavenward entrancement was broken by Scout’s call, “Daddy, can you help me get started?” Scout had stalled about fifty yards away. Halley could start her bike from a dead stop, but Scout still needed a push to start moving. Turning toward her voice, I heard God tell me in my heart to turn away. Reluctantly, I returned to my skyward stance.

“Daddy!” Scout begged for help. I knew God was right, but it was hard to ignore Scout’s request. Scout had to learn to start the bike on her own. Each time I helped her with a push, I delayed her growth. I struggled to obey Him as the Lord exhorted me again, “Trust me.”

After I pleaded with Jesus to help Scout, I heard her yell, “Daddy, I can do it!” Her voice sounded remarkably close as I turned to face her. Scout was now ten feet away and headed straight at me. I jumped left as she raced past me, nearly flattening my right foot. She skidded to a stop, grinned, giggled, and started again, rejoicing in her new talent. Now that she had learned acceleration, I made a mental note for our next lesson to cover navigation.

I believe the key to homeschooling older students lies in gradually teaching them to educate themselves. Little by little, God wants me to “pass the keys” to my growing kids. When I try to help my three-year-old son tear open his yogurt container, he shouts, “No, I want to do it!” I admire his spirit and am thankful that purple yogurt washes easily out of his clothes and the carpet. I cannot say it is always easy for me to obey God’s leading here, but the rewards are great – as I learned when Scout conquered her bicycle.

After another half-hour of figure eights and crashes, my sweaty girls rode home in triumph eager to tell Mom of their adventures. Somehow they forgot about the falls and shared only their victories. I thanked God I had obeyed Him, stepped out of the way, and let my girl grow up a bit on that wonderful day.

If you would like to share your thoughts on all of this or want to borrow some used training wheels, please contact me