First kiss. First car. First job. First love. First child. First grandchild. First Lady. Just kidding. Gamma remembers many Firsts. Now, she’s a witness to her Grands’ Firsts.
The youngest grandchild celebrated his First birthday. He’s a summer baby. As with most First birthdays, it was a family affair. The guests were immediate family and a few outliers. The highlight of the whole shebang was blowing out the candles. Of course, a one-year-old can’t perform on demand. Assistance was required. It was like a scene from The Big Bad Wolf. Lots of huffing and puffing until the flame went out.
After blowing out the candles, Baby Brother stared at the cake. The process of eating birthday cake baffled him. He sat patiently in his high chair, shirtless, waiting for instruction from Mom. Slowly, he poked his finger into the icing. Then, with finger to mouth, his eyes widened. The destruction of the massive blob on his tray was seconds away. Pow! Baby Brother’s entire fist was covered in sugary goodness. The cheers erupted; cake for everyone!
Another First involved a fairy, coins, and a lost tooth. Once the actual fear of losing a tooth is gone, every child loves leaving said tooth for the tooth fairy. The ceremonial task of strategically placing a tooth under a pillow, falling asleep, and waking to a stash of cash is magical. However, there are questions. How does the tooth fairy get in the house? Will she come down the chimney like Santa? What if you don’t have a chimney? So many questions. What does she do with all the teeth? Gam wasn’t sure how to answer that one. If anyone has an answer, please share.
For a lost tooth the tooth fairy waits. Leaving gifts under pillows for children to take.
The Third First. The First day of K-12. This year, the oldest Grand started kindergarten. She’s very excited. Preschool was a big deal. This is ginormous. "We get school supplies,” said Sis. What? Have you checked the price tag on school supplies? It may require a second job. Oh, they have a ‘mock’ school day, too. For clarity, it’s half a day spent with parents or guardians taking pictures and visiting the classroom. And get this…kids want to go.
The Fourth First. It was a breakout year for swimming. The five-year-old is swimming the length of the pool. She’s diving off the ladder in the deep end. There are strokes underwater, above water, and a few backhanded strokes. What happens next summer, a job as a lifeguard? The four-year-old swims underwater and jumps off the side of the pool without floaties. He’s a brave boy and uses the diving board (with floaties). Plus, underwater tag games, diving for diving toys, and ‘Marco-Polo,’ Cowabunga!
The Fifth First. Sis and Bubba are learning to ride a bike. Each has ridden a balance bike and a bike with training wheels. The balance bikes were Christmas gifts, the training wheels birthday gifts, and the gift of riding without training wheels…a gift from Gamma.
Balance bikes are new to Gam. She remembers dismantling the training wheels from her bike to learn to ride on two wheels. It was kindergarten year and her family lived in Northeast Arkansas, close to Little Rock. Most of the neighbors were of similar income, education, and occupation. Families lived in single-family households with basements, backyards, and swing sets. Nobody had fences around their yards. Summers were spent with friends, a.k.a. neighborhood kids. Play time started after breakfast and continued until dark. Mom stayed home. Dad went to work. Everyone felt safe. Simple life. Simple times.
Behind Gam’s house was a tall, grassy hill. It was the perfect launch pad for riding a bike. No helmet. No knee pads. No elbow pads. No nothing. It was just the wind and earth under the tires. Sure, collisions happened, but thankfully, memories fade. Well, to some degree…
As Gam recollects those memories, she associates a measure of pleasure and pain with learning to ride a bike. Riding down the hill at a high rate of speed was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. The Grands share similar emotions. They're conflicted.
Where do the Grands practice?
Good question. Fate stepped in and helped with this one.
Gam’s next-door neighbors needed access to their backyard via her backyard to put in a pool. A makeshift road was constructed at the edge of her property. The architects of the swimming pool project included backhoes, concrete trucks, and hard workers. The one-lane dirt road resembled a back alley. It was perfect to teach the Grands how to ride their bikes.
What was the Grand’s experience on a bike?
One practiced on the bike with extra wheels (training wheels). The other practiced on the two-wheeler that glides (balance bike). Gam believes the ‘gliding’ biker is learning faster and having an easier go at it. She shares a quick play-by-play of their first riding experience.
There’s only one Gamma and two children. Typically, the more vocal child wins the battle of Firsts. The first biker was the training wheels learner. She was all over the place. Wobbly. Having trouble steering. Lacks balance. It was a challenge but Sis isn’t a quitter. The second biker was the glider. Bubba knew to keep his eyes on the dirt road. He could steer with no trouble. He forgets to pedal and wants to glide. Gam ‘let go’ after two or three runs.
What was Gamma’s Method for the Run-Along?
Teaching the Grands how to ride a bike required the children’s willingness to learn and a fit Gamma. First, it’s got to be their decision to learn. If they’re ready to go, Gam’s their biggest cheerleader. Lots of ‘Atta boys and girls’ and ‘You can do it.” Gam tells them she won’t let go, and she doesn’t. She asks if she may let go (only the glider has agreed). All three discuss the next ride.
The other method is physicality. Gam’s learned that being at her physical best for the Grands is a must! It requires eating healthy, exercising, meditation, and prayer…lots of prayers. Jesus take the wheel kind of prayer. Gam places one hand on the back of the seat and the other on the handlebars. As she runs alongside each biker, she finds moments to let go of the handlebars. Then, if they’re willing, Gam lets go of the backseat.
Firsts are exciting. Gam’s so lucky to live close by. Her wish is to experience as many Firsts as fate allows. Gamma’s Watching.