My biggest concern when I first became a father, wasn’t if I’d be good at it or not, if I could provide for them, or anything about loving them enough. It was that I’d pass on my worst personality trait.
It’s a trait that I still find confusing. I find it this way, not because I think I’m above it, but, because it’s misdirected. it’s the trait of worry. I worry too much about the inconsequential. I heard in the speech of my parents growing up. And unfortunately, I hear it in myself too. I usually try to to keep it at bay, however it was prominent on Saturday.
It was the first weekend of March. A lovely warm day here in Tokyo. The plum blossoms are blooming, and the city is in anticipation for the main event in a few weeks, the cherry blossoms. If Spring is natures season for new beginnings, the cherry blossoms are the reminder to live bold and strong, as life can be fleeting. And it seems like my son has adapted some of those concepts too.
Under the external staircase of our house sits a child’s bike. It has a coat of dust covering its once shiny gold paint. Its strong steel frame, heavy suspension forks, and big thick black tires could hold the weight of any father. However, it has sat unused for close to two years. It was gifted to my son from a family friend, but was too heavy for him to control at the time.
Then on Saturday morning out of nowhere, he decided he wanted to start riding it around the neighborhood. This was surprising. Like i said, he never rode the bike, and I’d contemplated giving it away. However, once he got on the bike, he didn’t want to stop.
First he rode laps around the block, then he rode along side me as I walked down to the local 7-11. Then after that, he rode it to the library.
During these trips, I was doing what all parents do in this situation, telling him to stop at every crossway, to watch out for cars and people, don’t go too fast down the hill, and anything else I could critic him on. It frustrated him to the point that he stopped and put his fingers in his ears. At that point, I knew I was being an over barring over protective parent. My son knows the safety he must take when crossing a street. He knows how dangerous a main road can be, hell, I’ve told him enough times, along with his mother, his grandmother, his grandfather, and they probably drum it in at kindergarten too.
When we entered the library we went separate ways. He headed to the children’s section, and I went downstairs to find a copy of the the New Yorker. I took the time to think about what had just happened, and felt ashamed of being that over barring parent. I’m not like this in my adult life. I try to be daring, take risks, and encourage others to do the same. But when I’m being a father, I’m often the opposite. My most used words are, “Don’t do that!”, “Watch out!”, and “Be careful.”
Therefore, on the walk back I bit my tongue.
Later that afternoon, I rode around the neighborhood with him, leading by example.
And on one of his short breaks from riding, I gave the bike a clean, checked the tires, and adjusted the seat to the perfect height.
Some of my greatest memories when I was he’s age were experienced on a bicycle, and I long for him to have the same.
I may not be able to completely let go of worry from my life and my children’s, but this weekend was a small step in the right direction.