David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “Parenthood”

The Shift (2015-01-13 Daily) [Part 2 of 3]

I figured that, as a gymnast, Hannah’s keen balance would make the process of learning how to ride a bicycle easier. I was wrong. For two or three afternoons she mounted the bike and I ran alongside her, mostly holding on, but occasionally taking my hands off the handlebars and the back of her neck. She wobbled and weaved. I ran until I struggled to catch both my breath and Hannah, but still nothing seemed to click. Frustration overwhelmed me at one point. “I guess I failed as a father in this, too,” I growled one day.

“You’re not a failure,” Mary scolded me. No, I’m not. So I persisted despite the breathlessness and the pain in my hip.

As I pushed and guided and held on and let go, I noticed Hannah riding with her head down, eyes focused on her feet. “Look up,” I panted. “Look where you’re going, not down at your feet.”

“Okay, Dad,” she said, glancing up for a second, then dropping her eyes again to her nicely-tied shoes.

The focus on her feet reminded me of when I took country-western dance lessons twenty years ago. Younger and way more energetic, I looked forward to the free lessons at several of the local honky tonks. I learned the two step, the three step, and my favorite, the Fort Worth shuffle. Problem was, I had a tendency to look at my feet instead of focusing on the girl and the other couples behind her. Result: not only was my dancing style jerky and hesitant, I invariably ran my dance partner into fixed objects, like walls and other struggling dancers. It was not pretty. “Quit looking at your feet,” the instructors would tell me. I had to learn to look straight ahead and trust that my feet would do what they were supposed to do, embracing the music and ignoring my deer-in-the-headlights gaze. When I finally learned to look forward and move to the rhythm, my dancing skills improved dramatically. Girls actually wanted to dance with me. As I ran beside Hannah, I tried to convey this life lesson between great gulps of air.

But after two or three afternoons in the driveway, Hannah’s bike riding still remained jerky and hesitant, especially after she drove it off the cement and into the grass during a turn. She became one with the bike and the driveway, crashing in a tangle of pink metal and hot tears. To her credit, though, she climbed right back on and tried again. She’s persistent like her Old Man. But after a few more turns around the driveway, I was done. So was she.

“Can you put the training wheels back on now?” she asked, wheeling the bike into the garage.

“No,” I barked, glancing at the corner where I’d hidden them. “I threw them away.”

A few days later we were both ready to try again. She climbed onto the seat and placed her right foot on the pedal. I grabbed the handlebar with my left hand and wrapped the fingers of my right hand around the back of her tiny neck. The theme song from Chariots of Fire played in the background of my mind as she nodded and I began to run. When we got up to speed, I felt something in Hannah’s body shift. She settled into the trajectory, her frame relaxed, her face remained pointed straight ahead. I let go. She rode all the way to the end of the driveway as if she’d been riding a bicycle for years.

I caught up to her, helped her turn around, then let go again. We repeated this several times, then she wanted to make the turns by herself. By the end of the hour she was riding circles around me. Literally. “This is fun, Dad,” she told me recently as she rode her bike with some friends on a dirt driveway in the middle of the country. Yes it is, I thought. Yes it is.


Copyright © 2015 David C Hughes

The Shift (2015-01-09 Daily) [Part 1 of 3]

As the parents of a precocious seven-year-old homeschool student, Mary and I share the responsibility of not only raising our daughter in the way she should go (per Proverbs 22:6), but also teaching the basic curricula applicable to her age. For the most part she’s a willing student, eager to learn and even more eager to ask questions. Lots and lots of questions…. Science is her favorite subject—she loves to collect insects and isn’t ooged out by catching frogs, toads, and garter snakes. At one time she even went through a spider egg harvesting phase. Fortunately that obsession was short-lived—hatching black widow eggs in the house, as fascinating as that may sound, would not have ended well for any of us.

Not long after Hannah was born, I realized there were four essential life skills that I as a father was obligated to teach my daughter: 1) how to tie her shoes, 2) how to catch a ball, 3) how to ride a bicycle, and 4) how to bring down a deer with just her teeth. Well, that fourth one was an option, but I’ve taken the first three quite seriously.  It amazed me how fast she picked up the shoe-tying thing. Granted, she ties her shoes in mirror image from the way I do mine, but she gets the job done—she hasn’t busted her face yet because her shoes have come untied while running. Score one for Dad.

The ball-catching skill has been a little more, uh, challenging. She’s got a strong throwing arm and can zing a tennis ball fairly accurately, but she has a tendency to close her eyes, turn away, and cover her face when I toss it back to her. When I tell her to keep her eye on the ball, she takes my command literally. “Dad, you failed at this one,” Hannah informed me one day after a miserable ball-catching session. I conceded defeat, but she’s still young. And I’m still a perfectionist. Besides, she’s a competitive gymnast. Last I checked, no ball skills are needed to excel at that sport, so I’m good for now.

My dad taught me how to ride my bike when I was five years old. And he was a spry 28. My first bicycle either didn’t come with training wheels or Dad chose not to use them. Regardless, he’d run beside me, grasping the handle bars until I’d gained enough speed to let go. Usually I’d coast along in a straight line, wobbly but upright. After only one major crash (which featured pea gravel embedded in my knee), I managed to perfect this essential life skill.

Hannah received her first “big girl” bike from my parents on Christmas day in 2012, when she was five. I outfitted the pink princess bicycle with training wheels, and she remained quite content riding around in our driveway and in the cul-de-sac with relative stability. When she turned six and the training wheels still remained firmly mounted to the bike’s frame, I began to feel the pressure to teach her how to ride on two wheels instead of four. First, I raised the training wheels so the bicycle didn’t actually rest on them, but this resulted in a teeter-totter ride that made Hannah nervous. So I removed them altogether and began to teach her the old-fashioned way, just like my daddy did, by holding onto the handle bars and gripping the back of her neck while running along beside her. I was 49 years old at the time, and suffering from painful bone spurs in both of my heels. I was not spry. The training wheels went back on after 30 minutes.

As Hannah approached her seventh birthday the fatherly obligation again began to kick in. “You’re going to learn how to ride your bike without training wheels,” I declared one day.

“What if I want them back on?” Hannah asked as I removed the ambulatory crutches.

“Sorry, I’m throwing them away,” I lied. “From now on, if you want to ride your bike you have to ride it without training wheels.”

My feet feeling much better (thank You, Jesus!), Hannah and I started the process once more. This time I was determined to succeed.



Copyright © 2015 David C Hughes

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