As parents we have two very important functions – to push our kids up the hill, and to keep them from going too fast down the other side ...
It's a sight to behold. My nearly four-year-old daughter is cruising along the paved path; her little legs are frantically pedaling to get to some imaginary finish line. The pink glittery streamers on the handles of her Barbie bike cascade behind her in the wind. Stray strands of her wispy blonde hair poke through the holes in her helmet which is decorated with unicorns.
"Mommy, the lake is beautiful," she says punctuating the twenty-five-cent word with an "l" that rolls off her perfect little rosebud lips. "The day is beautiful."
I agree that the lake is beautiful and the day is beautiful, but what I am truly taken aback by is her beauty in all of its imperfections and sweet innocence.
She daringly takes one hand off of the handlebar and waves at me as I walk quickly beside her. I can't take my eyes off of her. I'm afraid if I do that she will suddenly be sixteen-years-old, and instead of a Barbie bike, she will be waving to me as she pulls out of the driveway in her car.
"Mommy, need help!" she screams as she gets to a hill and her little legs can't manage to turn the pedals.
She starts to roll backwards. I catch her and support the small of her back with my hand, pushing her gently up the hill. When I look over she is smiling, beaming with the knowledge that she can climb any hill as long as I have her back.
"Can't go down, Mommy, too steep, too steep," she cries planting her feet on the pavement to keep herself from rolling down the next big hill.
I grab the handle bars and jog along side her, keeping her speed at a minimum, and more importantly, keeping the bike in control.
"We're doing it, Mommy, we're doing it!" she yells with glee and then rings the pink bell on the handlebars.
I realize that these simple tasks — pushing her up when she needs help, and slowing her down when she's going too fast — are things I will do for many years to come, long after the Barbie bike is gathering dust in the garage ...