Poetry Friday:Learning the Bicycle by Wyatt Prunty

Poetry Friday is hosted by Sylvia Vardel @ Poetry for Children

kid on bike

It’s Spring time (well, it’s cold and grey, so it feels as though it’s almost Spring time), and all the little ones in my neighborhood are learning to ride their shiny new bikes.  I love this time of year.  The teacher in me loves to hear the way parents and siblings coach the newbies along with gentle reassurances, clear directions, and enthusiastic celebration of even the smallest signs of progress.  And the parent in me is always taken back in time to those Spring afternoons when I helped my own three kids, one by one, to “learn the bicycle”.

At the time, of course, it was just a matter of helping them learn how to master one more skill, just as they had needed me to help them learn to walk, or use the potty, or the other million or so skills that dot the journey from birth through toddlerhood…from adolescence to adulthood.

But, there is something about learning the bicycle that, looking back, seemed to mark the beginning of letting go.  I still remember the moments when each of my three, having mastered balance and hand brakes, suddenly realized that they were finally off and away.  I’ll never forget the exuberance with which they began to pedal faster and faster, down the sidewalk, and out of sight.  Their journey away from me had just begun.

Learning the Bicycle by Wyatt Prunty

The older children pedal past
Stable as little gyros, spinning hard
To supper, bath, and bed, until at last
We also quit, silent and tired
Beside the darkening yard where trees
Now shadow up instead of down.
Their predictable lengths can only tease
Her as, head lowered, she walks her bike alone
Somewhere between her wanting to ride
And her certainty she will always fall.
Tomorrow, though I will run behind,
Arms out to catch her, she’ll tilt then balance wide
Of my reach, till distance makes her small,
Smaller, beyond the place I stop and know
That to teach her I had to follow
And when she learned I had to let her go.


18 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:Learning the Bicycle by Wyatt Prunty

  1. Thank you for allowing me to reminisce through those days of teaching my daughter to ride her bike. Although she mastered it, I think I’m teaching her to ride a different bike now as I let go and watch her ride away. Great post, Tara! ~Amy

  2. “To teach her, I had to follow and when she learned, I had to let go.” So true on so many levels. For some reason I cannot conjure this memory. Maybe that was Dad’s job?

  3. Like you, I remember the exuberance, the flat-out thrill of seeing my kids in motion, on their own, breezing into the world. For a moment it’s like all will be well — no potholes, on the brink of their whole individual lives. What freedom! Thank you for sharing. xo

  4. It was a pleasure to teach, but I remember that feeling of letting go, something close to when they first walked. A celebration and a little bittersweet too, Tara. “beyond the place I stop and know. . .” Happy Mother’s Day!

  5. I love this poem so much! And you’ve got the perfect photo to go with it. Learning to ride a bike is a wonderful image for that part of growing and moving off into the world.

  6. We had a celebration dinner when my oldest learned to ride on two wheels. I quickly made a paper crown for him and he got to sit at the head of the table. He still talks about this bicycle dinner. These moments need to be celebrated–they mean so much to a child.

  7. Hmmm. I love it when a writer touches on exactly what I feel deep in my bones. This spoke to me: “till distance makes her small.”
    Thank you for sharing poetry that brushes up against my heart.

  8. Thank you for sharing in the Poetry Friday loveliness this week and sharing this thoughtful poem. It brings back great “mom” memories for me, too!

  9. Not having children of my own, I can only bring the experience of the 5th grade teacher, preparing to send another class off to the middle school, likely never to see most of them again. Bittersweet.

  10. Oh, Tara, you always choose the best poems to celebrate every occasion! I’m in the thick of letting go of my last baby, now a teen, and it’s sure not easy. I must say, though, I do like watching them become their own selves.

  11. My daughter just learned how to ride a bike a few months back (in preparation for Europe – although I doubt if she’d bike there – the traffic would be most likely way different from our sedate parks here hehe), and I can resonate with much of what you just wrote here. I am just glad that she is still with me, and still a few years away from the actual letting go part. But I guess there will always be a part of us that will continue hanging on, forever. 🙂 Belated Happy Mother’s Day, dearest Tara!

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