There are a handful of mobility milestones in a child’s life that are marked with great joy and picture taking: when he rolls over for the first time, sits up, crawls, pulls himself up on furniture, takes his first step and, then, actually starts walking.
As proud parents, we applaud wildly, as if scooting across the floor is on the same level as winning a Nobel Peace Prize or hitting a home run for the Red Sox. It used to be we would then make a staggering amount of phone calls to grandparents and godparents, aunts and uncles; now we just Vine it, tweet it and await the flood of congratulatory replies on Facebook.
Or, we blog about it.
My son, Jacob — the 5-year-old, the cute one — reached such a milestone this week — the last until he starts driving. His training wheels came off.
Now, fellow parents can back me up on this, but removing a kid’s training wheels can go one of two ways: They can embrace the challenge like little Evel Knievels, or they can fight you to the death, begging to keep their bike’s security blanket.
Jake has always been our kid who throws caution to the wind. He’s the one we worry about — the one who will disappear into the tops of trees or senselessly take orders from his brother, who is more cautious with his own safety than he is his brother's. But while Grant is tall and scrawny, Jake is built like a tank — low to the ground and thick with muscles. He has much better padding than his brother.
Seeing his brother and sister cruising around on their bikes, Jake was excited about losing the training wheels. I came home from work Wednesday to see him zipping around our cul-de-sac. I pulled into the driveway and he flew toward me, all grins and irrational confidence. Before he could plow into the back of the car, he smacked on his brakes, proudly leaving a 4-foot skid mark on the sidewalk.
A day earlier, he was shaky at best. My beautiful, devout wife and I would grip the back of his seat and run behind him until he was riding on his own. Soon, though, he would stop pedaling, hoping to cruise, and he would wobble and tip over.
I asked him what made him such a great bike rider so quickly, and his answer was simple, even for a 5-year-old: “I pedaled faster.”
Later that night, as I was lying in bed, I thought about how proud I was of him and how I could learn a lesson. A few months ago, I wrote about how I was striving to become more faithful, to be intentional in my prayer life and in boosting my knowledge about the Church and its teachings. I had taken my training wheels off. I was Evel Knievel.
But lately, out of laziness or being too busy or a million other excuses, I had picked up my feet and stopped pedaling. I was cruising and, eventually, without the reminder from Jacob, I was going to fall.
So I’m going to continue to strive. I’m going to read more and pray more. I’m going to pay attention to the details of my life — my faith and my wife, our kids, my job — and I’m going to be better. I’m going to stop cruising.
I’m going to pedal faster.
Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly. Follow him on Twitter @Scott_OSV.
For more of Scott's Confessions of a Catholic Dad, click here.