No Training Wheels

We’re pleased to introduce another writer, MD Ramesh to this Blog. He’s a former colleague & a good friend of mine for the past 15 years. In his spare time, MD moon-lights as the editor of a local Newsletter in Iowa. Please encourage him with your comments. – Sukumar.

This summer, I was teaching my six-year old son to ride a bike. We usually go to the trail by the freeway near where we live. Last year, he rode with two training wheels and this year, before the school started, he asked me to take out one of them. Hmm! I thought he is becoming brave. Whenever we go biking, I used to walk or jog behind him depending on his speed. I never had any difficulty since he never went fast and he constantly kept falling down and I had to be there to hold him. Then after the school started, may be due to peer pressure at school (!), he asked me to take off both the wheels. I obliged and took him the first day without any training wheels. He could not even move one inch without me holding the bike! I thought, “Ok, he is still young. It is going to take him a while and I had to be with him and be prepared to hold the bike and run with him”.

Teaching him reminded me of the days when I learnt to ride back home. For me, mostly my brothers and my uncle taught me to ride during the hot summer holidays in India. I learnt mostly on the streets. The streets were a lot safer then. Like these instances, lots of fond memories floated by and I failed to notice my son’s improvements. He started gaining balance and all of a sudden, he said, “Papa, please take your hands off! I will do it myself”. I took my hands off, but I still continued to jog behind him. I was afraid, and also concerned that he would lose his balance, fall off the bike and hurt himself. After a couple of sessions, he gained confidence, started pedaling faster and took off. I was no longer able to catch up (age shows when you jog!) with him and I fell behind. There he is, my son, pedaling away, on his own, without training wheels, and me, I am puffing and panting and walking faster to make sure I can see him, to make sure that he does not fall and hurt himself.

Also this summer, some of my friends are in the same shoes as myself. Their sons and daughters have grown up, completed school and are going away from home to pursue their careers, ambitions and dreams. They have taken off their “training wheels” and are pedaling away towards their future, leaving us behind. We, as parents, are concerned that they should not “loose their balance” and get hurt along the way. We want to make sure we can see them, even though they are riding just fine. We also can’t believe that our children don’t need us to baby-sit them anymore. They are excited about their newfound freedom, about the new things they are going to learn and about the new experiences they are going to have. Us, we have the same old routine of mowing, cleaning and of course our jobs.

I tried to remember the time I left home for my higher studies. It was an exciting moment for me since I was going far away and will be studying in one of the best institutions. I was looking forward to the two-day train journey and the hostel life with my own independent hostel room. I will be working on the latest computers and will have access to the latest research in my subject. Among all this excitement, I failed to realize how my parents would have felt when I took off my “training wheels” and pedaled away towards my future.

No Training Wheels was published in a local Indian Association News Letter on September 2003 by M.D. Ramesh


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    Brilliant post MD. You have brought out the parental anxiety we all develop whilst not acknowledging our own parents’ anxiety. Superb.

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    Lovely and touching.

    2 takeaways I realised this 2 years ago.
    1. As our parents get older, they are like children on bikes and they need those training wheels back and our support. Life comes a big circle. I made efforts to put the training wheels on their cycles and hold it when they ride. To be specific I take them for a movie/lunch/temple whenever I can. But I rate myself pretty at it though. Huge “opportunites” for improvement as they say in corporate world. To me it essentially it means “dude you suck, pull up your socks and do better”. 🙂 🙂

    2.As our childer grown older before we realize they have pedalled away. Unfortunately it is Catch-22 when children cross 12 they are pedalling away. But when they are between 4 and 12 when they need us to support we are busy with careers because that is the age we are typically building momentum in career. woo that is tough balance. I really dont have a good answer. Trying to figure it out…!!!

    Good one.. touched a nerve.

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    Great post, MD! 🙂
    //how my parents would have felt when I took off my “training wheels” and pedaled away towards my future.// Feeling very nostalgic now!

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    Good post and here is a perspective that I wanted to leave with you. As much as we take off the training wheels and see our kids achieve, we learn a big lesson of “learning to let go”. Our concerns and worries are really vestiges of this learning process and really habits that we as parents need to shake off

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    Sukumar, thanks again for introducing me to this circle of intellegent discussion and for your encouragement into blogging.

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    Kumaran, I totally agree with you on your first point. Sadly, my parents passed away long ago and I think my elder brother did that role. However, now I see my in-laws in that exact same position and my wife doing the supporting role. Excellent extension. On your second point, it is completely our fault if we are not there for them! My feel is that at least one of us has to do the sacrifice.

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    Arvind, thanks for your kind words. Nostalgic indeed.

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    Made me pretty emotional. Great post Ramesh.

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    Brilliant metaphorical post MD Ramesh. I used to learn bi-cycle all by myself without let my dad/mom know, because they don’t want me to learn bi-cycle,swimming and many adventure things including travel in bus :-). One main reason is, i’m only one child of my parents. They want me to stay with them all the time, but that’s virtually impossible. Any way, nowadays i’m giving my son 6 years complete freedom, i insists him to remove the training wheels as soon as possible. :-). I believe if he fall couple of times,he would learn how to ride bicycle sooner than later.

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    Beautiful Post MD Ramesh.. More than a description, i should say, its a wonderful picturization.. when i read through the lines, the scenes appear before my eyes..

    i got reminded of my childhood days, where i learned without any training wheels, not just bicycle, but right up to Enfield bullet and also the four wheeler, all by myself..

    In rural areas, there are no time for the people to train their children.. rather, most children learn collectively, either through mutual help or through competition.. The first time i rode a bicycle was by “monkey pedalling” (i dont know if everyone knows this phrase)..

    Even in life, most of the people around me shaped their career themselves, learning themselves and facing all hardships.. While i had privelege of a good english medium education, i really salute those people who had studied in tamil medium, and picked up their career and advanced to greater heights..

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    MD – Nice post, excellent metaphor. Enjoyed reading it. Looking FW to reading your future posts in this blog.

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    Vamsi, Thanks for your kind words.

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    Subba, Thanks for your encouragement. I learnt mostly on the full size bicycle doing monkey pedal! I had a big gang of friends from my street who all learned at the same time. I feel there is nothing wrong being protective of your children. It is the right balance that is tough to achieve and it varies for everyone.

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    Senthil, thanks you very much for your kind words. I too learned to ride by monkey pedal as that was the cheapest option. Renting small sized bikes are too expensive at that age! When I visit my ex-home in Mylapore, I normally take a walk in those streets. Lot of things have changed, but I still remember all the hot summer afternoons where we sneaked out to learn.

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    Priya, thanks for your kind encouragement. I will try to do my best.

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    MD – Training wheels and bicycle – Nice metaphors for certain aspects of our life. I guess the “cycle” repeats itself as the children take care of the parents during their old age. I still find that my parents find it difficult to “let go” of certain things, and probably I will too with my daughter.

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    Ganesh, you are absolutely right. It is hard to let go. We often justify that we do it for all the good intentions. Sometimes we feel if we let go we will become less important in their lives. Hard choices.

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    selvaraaju (subscribed) said March 19, 2010, 3:19 pm:

    Nice Post.

    It is better to leave children to learn on their own and parents should just guide them.

    Selvaraaju Murugesan
    PhD Student, La Trobe University

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    Selvaraju, thanks for your encouragement. I agree, but from my life’s experience, I find it practically hard to do.

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