Cycling Lessons – Learning to Let Go

 

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This is your present cycle, a yellow Hercules. Unfortunately, I have lost the picture of your first BSA pink-and-silver cycle.

For a long time, I have wanted to write about how I taught you cycling. I was no expert. I did not know how to ride a cycle. I had never ridden a cycle in my life. So I had to rely heavily on web articles and YouTube videos.

 

Your first cycle was a pink and silver BSA with training wheels. We spent several long hours riding it on our terrace, you and I. You were a little boy of five and you refused to ride it unless I held the saddle or the handlebars. Sometimes, I held you under your armpits so that you could learn the fine art of balancing on your own.

It gave me one hell of a backache, but I was determined that you should learn cycling. When I removed the training wheels and told you that you should try riding without them, you rebelled.  And before we could argue about it any further, the monsoons set in. Your little pink and silver BSA lay forlorn and forgotten in a corner of our garden as long as the rains lasted.

When drier days finally rolled in, I rescued the cycle and got it serviced. Your riding lessons started in earnest again, but this time, you were clearly not in the mood.

“I want training wheels,” you whined.

“No, you must learn to balance without training wheels,” I insisted firmly.

“Then I want you to hold the saddle while I pedal,” you replied.

“Just think,” I tried to convince you. “You can’t go fast if I keep holding you. Don’t you want to cycle fast? Don’t you want to cycle long distances?”

“I want to become a pilot,” you said stubbornly. “You don’t need to ride cycles to become a pilot.”

“Oh yes, you do,” I said firmly. “If you can’t ride a simple cycle, how will you fly a plane? A plane goes much faster.”

You carefully weighed the pros and cons and finally decided to give it a try. But you still insisted that I either hold you under your armpits or grip the saddle of your cycle. Since I was tired of the terrace, I decided to take you to Kadri Park Mangaluru for your riding lessons.

 

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A photo of the new gate of Kadri Park Mangaluru. Absolutely cycle proof. 

 

I will never forget those precious moments when I finally let go of the saddle and let you ride on your own. Blissfully unaware that I had let go, you rode on and on. I was so delighted to see you riding on your own that I clapped hard and cheered. And that’s when you realized that you had actually learned how to ride a cycle. I will never forget the look on your face that wonderful day

The park authorities booted us out soon after, but I did not mind because the purpose was served. Apparently, Kadri Park Mangaluru is meant exclusively for walkers, joggers, and runners, not cyclists.

It was the letting go that did the trick. It was not at all easy for me to let go. After all, I did not want my precious baby to fall down and hurt himself.

But my precious pet, as your parent, I have to let go of you. I have to let you fall and get hurt. I have to harden my heart because you will learn all the essential skills of life only if I let go of you, the same way you learned cycling when I let go.

Letting go of you so that you could make your own decisions and live life on your own terms was the toughest parenting lesson I had to learn. It took me a long time to understand that you are born free.

School Stories – It Begins with a Piece of Rope

rope-1469244_640As I write this, I cannot help but wonder if, several years later, you will remember your first school or your second school or your third school. We sure have left quite a few schools behind us, haven’t we? In the process, we have seen a lot of people and learned some valuable lessons—lessons we are not bound to forget in a hurry.

To tell you the truth, I have a horror of schools. I never wanted to send you to school. I wanted to home school you, but didn’t quite know how to. The education laws in India are not that favourable to homeschoolers. That doesn’t mean people don’t home school in India. They most certainly do! We have large homeschooling communities in places such as Chennai and Bangalore. But we don’t have any such community in Kudla—a city of highly competitive and indifferent people. The most commonly used words here, “saavu” and “sayyad ya,” clearly reflect the indifferent and apathetic nature of Kudlites.

So when you were a sweet two-year-old, I enrolled you in a school. The teacher was the wife of a friend of mine and I hoped she would take good care of you. “He is too small to start learning anything,” I told her. “I will just leave him here for a few hours. I want him to socialize a bit, make friends, and so on. It’s just to prepare him for play school and nursery.” She agreed to babysit you along with a few other toddlers.

The school provided 11:00 a.m. snacks. I just had to drop you there at around 9:00 a.m. and pick you up at 12:00 noon. Since I did not have my own vehicles those days, we had to rely on public transportation. Still, things went well for a couple of weeks. Then I noticed those weird marks on your wrists. We were on the bus at that time, returning home.

“What’s this?” I asked.

You did not answer. You couldn’t possibly. You were a late speaker. I had sent you to school hoping that the company of other toddlers would encourage you to speak.

Throughout the journey, I was worried. What were those damn marks? How did they get there? Those little criss-cross marks on your wrists could mean only one thing and I did not even want to think of it. Those marks remained on your wrists for a few hours. Later, your grandmother dared to say what I had not: “They have tied him up. Those are rope marks.”

I did ask “my friend’s wife” about it. She gave vague responses and pretended to know nothing about it. But she did complain about your extraordinary interest in the snacks placed on the table. I put two and two together and got eight, and I did not like it. No, I did not like it at all. Something snapped in my brain. This “something snapping in my brain” is something that would happen again and again in the next few years, but I did not know it at that time. Needless to say, we did not see your “first school” again. We don’t even have any great regards for your “first school.”

I don’t mean to say that all schools suck. They don’t! Your next school was a peach of a school. It was actually a beautiful house surrounded by a lovely garden. And the teacher was the loveliest girl I had ever seen in my life. Six months after leaving your “first school,” you joined the play group in your second school. I wish I had let you finish your nursery, LKG, and UKG there, but that’s a different story. Suffice it to say that I had to act smart and put you in a different school, your “third school.”

Note

Years long, a few years before my son was born, I was talking to a teacher. She told me: “Busy mothers leave their toddlers at my school. Some of them are as young as a year old. I tie them all up to the legs of a table.” She then noticed the look of horror on my face and said: “Hey, don’t look like that. It keeps them safe. You don’t know how they wander away. It keeps them out of mischief too.”

I suspect that schools do have this dirty habit of tying small children up, just to “keep them safe” or “out of mischief.” I do not know what the general public feels about it, but I just hate the sound of it. If you don’t like the idea of someone tying you up just to “keep you safe” or “out of mischief,” don’t do it to a child. It is as simple as that!