I use to plop Miles in the laundry basket along with a pile of diapers to head out to the close line at our tiny duplex. He would hold onto the edge with a toothless grin and fuzzy white hair blowing in the wind. I would let him crawl in the dirty rocks as I quickly tried to pin-up all those colorful diapers before he decided one particular stone or rock was too shiny not to eat. Afterwards, we would head back towards the house, boy in basket, Mama feeling accomplished, ready to start the day. I don’t know what brought back this memory so strongly over weekend, as I witnessed the first real taste of freedom for my son, but it came back so strong it felt as if I could actually smell the air in that mountain town, and feel the pride of a girl made into Mama for the first time.
Though he has had a few tries on Miles bike, ones of Mama induced speed pushed down the hill and shouts of, “Pedal! Pedal” after my little Blondie, really he had not gathered up the courage needed to take the leap into the world of bike riding. He could “bomb” it down the hill on his balance bike, as he would describe, and we full well knew he was capable of riding the shiny red pedal bike on his own. But, he didn’t feel like it. Not yet. Then late last Saturday night, the neighbors were over for supper and we were participating in a just before dark marshmallow roasting dessert when I heard a joyful, “Mama! Mama!” from the top of the hill. We all watched as he struggled and pushed, and winded and eventually got two slow wobbly pedals in. Just like that. We all applauded his incredible accomplishment and he stood with a grin on his face I shall never forget. His pride was so intense all of us felt it. And then he took off, and really hasn’t stopped pedaling since.
Sunday morning I woke up just moments before him. I watched as he slowly opened his crescent moon eyes to the sunny world. He looked right into mine and said, “Can you believe it Mama?”. I knew just what he meant. It was on my mind still too. I was so proud he was a bike rider now. He gave me that ear to ear grin again and suggested we ride to the mailbox right away.
Of course I couldn’t resist.
Lee and I talked about how easily he seemed to pick it up, but we both agreed it was because it was the right timing and of his own will. It reminded me how learning to do things in this wide world is something that must come from an internal desire to do so. Coercion rarely results in any sort of enjoyment of a subject or activity. Well at least for me that is the case. I can only assume it is that way for the vast majority. I am not entirely sure Miles’ pride for his great accomplishment would have been so grand had it been something that I had coached him on for a few days, or if he had felt pressured to do something he deemed too scary too soon. His ability to ride came only from him.
“Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards.
We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.”
(Coon & Mitterer, 2010)
This summer we have the chance to actualize all kinds of potentials; Rowan’s keen interest in caterpillars and other insects, Miles continued mission in going fast and climbing high, my intense desire to learn to grow food for my family and Lee’s strengthening ability to build and create structures for our home that will be forever cherished. None of these paths come from a place of necessity or are on a list of standards, but all of them are satisfying, pleasurable and will most certainly give us a sense of accomplishment and pride. Summer is a time for free exploration. Everything from the vivid colors to the long days say you must.
“And that’s the sound of sunshine coming down” -Michael Franti