The Vanishing Point of Childhood

horatio460.jpgThis weekend was one of firsts and of letting go. As I posted yesterday, Adam was cleanly shorn for the first time like a sheep in the spring; the golden locks of his cranial fleece sealed in an envelope. Looping gossamer strands of a script narrating a bittersweet tale of separation and transformation for us the read in years to come. Even today though, two days after the haircut Kathleen and I are still looking at him like, “Who are you and what did you do with our baby?” He so far has denied any wrongdoing, but we’re still going to continue the investigation for a couple more days. Perhaps even call in David Caruso to deliver some patented, stilted, uninspired dialogue while he slowly removes his sunglasses.

Yesterday though marked the long overdue dénouement of Jack’s infancy in my mind thus beginning his inevitable march towards adolescence. For weeks I’ve been promising him that I’d take the training wheels off his bike and teach him how to ride a two-wheeler. He was ready a month ago to take his first cautious pedals without the reassuring balance of his training wheels, but I wasn’t ready for what it meant for him to no longer need the help from something that held him up, protected him from falling, and prevented him from getting hurt. I wasn’t ready for him to climb to the edge of the nest, to look over the edge and to leap into the abyss.

Then yesterday, for no reason in particular, I asked him if he wanted to go up to the elementary school to learn to ride a two-wheeler. The school has an enormous playing field with gentle slopes I figured would be good for Jack to get momentum and to cushion his fall when he lost his balance; which I was certain he would.

The school is only half a block away so with a ¼ inch wrench in the pocket of my coat I jogged along side him as he for the last time rode his bike with training wheels up to the school. We found a spot in the grass just off the sidewalk with a gradual downhill that lead out to the center of the field. Jack hopped off his bike and watched excitedly as I loosened the nuts on the extra wheels then took them off and dropped them in the grass. Before helping him onto the bike I said to him, “Don’t worry about falling Jack. Falling should be the furthest thing from your mind. I’ll have the back of your jacket and I won’t let you fall. I’m your training wheels now, OK?” and he nodded and smiled and said, “OK Daddy. I won’t worry. You’ve got me.”

The first time down the hill I did have him and though the handle bars wobbled and his balance was shifted too far to the left we made it half-way across the field, me running next to him with my hand clutching the back of his jacket holding him up, holding him back.

We walked the bike back up to the top of the hill and I helped him back on. “I’m going to try to let you go for a few seconds on this one, OK?” I said to him and to myself as we steadied ourselves for another try. He began to pedal before I was ready and after only a couple of strides I let go of his jacket.

He didn’t fall as he pulled away from me, a lone rider in the late afternoon sun casting a long shadow, a shadow the reached much further than I was ready for it to reach; a shadow that I didn’t quite recognize.


I stopped running after him and stood still as he rode away from me. Just another set of unnecessary training wheels in the grass.

And contrary to everything I have learned about horizon lines, vanishing points and perspective I would have sworn that the further away he got, the bigger he appeared.



17 thoughts on “The Vanishing Point of Childhood

  1. Wonderful description of letting go, and letting them grow up!! Brings back so many memories of doing the exact same thing with my little man.

    Yay Jack!!

  2. As KT Tunstall has been busy reminding everyone lately, the world will turn if you’re ready or not. Although you may have felt unnecessary as Jack rode away, the fact that he did so with such self-assurance is due in no small part to knowing you were there and to you and your wife having done an awesome job parenting to this point. Keep up the great work! You are rocking NaBloPoMo, by the way.

  3. Lisa: Letting go was the hardest part. knowing that he fight fall, but knowing that he also might not. yay jack is so right. Thanks.

    RedPlanet: And turn it does, everyday and here I am trying to catch up. Thanks for saying that about the job we’re doing. Sometimes I wonder…? NaBloPoMo will be the end of me….

  4. This one is my favorite post of yours so far during NaBloPoMo. It was very sweet, nearly got me to cry a bit thinking back on how it was when my dad took my training wheels off and then imagining how it’s going to be when Bry does the same for John. You seem like an excellent father, always letting your son know that you are there for him!

  5. YAHOO!!!

    What a great day for him. One of the many accomplishments he will make in his life. ESPECIALLY knowing that he has such supportive parents who will be there for him if he happens to fall.

  6. thebutton: this was one of the big moments for me as a Dad. This one made me tear up. Thanks for NaBloPoMo love… writing everyday I’m afraid the quality is suffering sometimes.

    thebyrd: We’ll always try to be there. Yahoo!!! is right. i was jumping up and down running after him after i took the pictures.

    kari: We got to get him swimming first 🙂

    Darren: Thank you Darren. Sometimes these things just write themselves though…

    Whit: Indeed it is.

  7. This one really touched my heart. You are such a good father. I love watching you with both of your boys. Jack is getting to be the little man. Wow! Hooray!! Jack, Nana is so proud of you.

    Love Mom

  8. That was so sweet! Liam didn’t let us take off the training wheels until he turned 7, this past spring. Now he’s doing wheelies. It’s hard seeing the grow so quickly, but you’ve got to be proud at the same time.
    Great pictures. You’re a great Dad.

  9. karen: You should have seen me running behind him trying to get the damn camera to focus. Wheelies? I’m not ready for that yet.

    Sarcastic mom: Thanks SarcMom. (It just takes so long to write) He still can’t turn to well but in astraight line he’s a natural.

  10. That’s golden – “I would have sworn that the further away he got, the bigger he appeared.” – couldn’t have explained it better…

    I am looking forward to the same day with all the pride and dread I have in me. My little boy becoming that little more independent. What a tragic joy.

  11. mitchmolk and themolk: tragic joy. nicely put. I wasn’t ready but I knew it was time. those couple of years pass faster than you think they will… they did for me as much as I tried to slow them down

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