Passing Down Family Traditions

Learning to ride a bicycle – one moment you can't balance because it's too scary, then suddenly you are riding on your own with a skill you'll keep the rest of your life. It is not a linear learning curve, the kind where you gradually improve, like learning a musical instrument or lifting weights. Instead, learning to ride a bike is a step function, it happens all at once. No matter the advice and coaching we get, it comes down to a personal revelation. Something in the brain clicks, and you are a bicycle rider.

This week, that specific something clicked in the brain of our granddaughter Madden. She and her sister, Landry, were visiting us in Midland for what my wife has titled “Gran Camp,” four days filled with fun and games and swimming lessons and cycling and horseback riding. Cyndi is the champion at squeezing as many experiences as possible into a few days, and she is tireless when introducing granddaughters to new experiences. She was the one who gave Madden her first push off on the tiny bicycle and watched her ride away. Well done.

Cyndi borrowed two small bicycles and one tricycle from our friends, the Hammontrees. One advantage of teaching a young couples Bible study class is we have access to lots of outgrown if heavily-used kids gear. The youngest of the Hammontree trio of boys, Hudson, was wary about loaning his bicycle to a stranger girl, but his generosity was our gain. And the economy's gain. Cyndi has gone bicycle shopping already.

cycling with Madden
cycling with Madden

I love it when people tell bicycle stories because the stories go all the way back to when the storyteller was five or six years old. Riding a bicycle is one of the first independent skills a child can learn. Once they take off and feel the speed and control, there is no calling them back. It is about freedom more than transportation or exercise.

My first bike was a huge Roadmaster single-speed with coaster brakes, fenders, black, and indestructible. I rode that bike to school almost every day. After school my friends and I would ride all the way home without touching the handlebars. I remember the crossing guard at Highway 302 stopping traffic before we got there so we could fly across the highway with hands raised high over our heads. We were amazing. We were flying.

So I am excited for little Miss Madden and her future bicycle stories. I can't wait to go riding with her. It is a family tradition, a human human tradition that has successfully jumped another generation in our tribe. And isn't the passing of traditions part of our prime directive as grandparents?

cycling with Landry
cycling with Landry

I must mention our youngest granddaughter, Landry, almost three, who was flying around the parking lot on one of the Hammontree's small tricycles. I suppose this is another family tradition, but everywhere she rode was a race, and it was important that she won every time. She even trash talked and threw raspberries when she passed someone. Who knows what she will be up to next summer at the 2017 Gran Camp.

Here's the thing: The traditions Cyndi and I want to pass down are bigger than cycling or swimming or even horseback riding. We hope to imprint a willingness to tackle new things, scary adventures, and to keep moving. We aren't as edgy as I made it sound – we don't climb frozen waterfalls or juggle chainsaws - but we want these girls to grow up dreaming big. We say “You are so brave” more often that we say “You are so pretty.”

And I have to say, Well done to Cyndi Simpson. She made the big plans and taught lifetime skills while I sat safely in my office typing into spreadsheets. She did all the work; I got to be in the photos. In our 37 years together, Cyndi has dragged me into attempting new things and scary adventures (including dancing), and she's encouraged me to keep moving. Both my road bike and my backpack were gifts from her. I am a fortunate man to have her encouragement; a better man to have her influence.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32