This poem always makes me remember teaching my son to ride a bike in a nearby church parking lot. At the point where he had achieved some degree of balance on two wheels, I would run along beside him with my hand clasping the end of the bike seat. After several days of this practice, at one point, I could tell that he suddenly found his balance and started pedaling faster, no longer needing my hand on the seat of the bike to steady him. I can still see him beginning to pick up the pace and energetically start pumping the pedals; I yelled “don’t stop,” fearing that if he slowed down, he would lose his balance.
“Don’t stop” is a metaphor for my experience of being a parent. We help our children develop skills so that they can develop their skills and leave us behind in a corner of the church parking lot, so pleased that they can now bike on their own.
Linda Pastan’s poem acknowledges the fears of parents for their children who are still so breakable. The speaker in this poem registers surprise when the child takes off, becomes smaller in the distance, and waves good-bye with her laughter.
The child leaving the home, taking discernible steps toward adulthood is the oldest story of humanity, but it’s also one that remains poignant for each parent, and even surprising, as Pastan suggests, for the transformation of the child into an adult remains a mystery for all of us; It’s a story that is totally universal and completely individual for each family.
Dr. Catherine Sutton,
Director of the Academic Resource Center