Sometimes I forget what it meant to be the youngest.
Then I walk across the street to my neighbors.
One minute Abby, the seven-year-old, tenderly ushers her toddler brother out the door. The next she’s barreling up the driveway on her bike. The two year old, peacefully watching the big kids whiz past, dives for safety behind his mom’s legs a split second before the bike screeches and fishtails across his vacated perch.
Abby looks around in disgusted but motherly disapproval: “Noah! You’ve got to learn to watch where you’re going!”
Despite the threat of death, Noah wants nothing more than to be like the big kids. He pulls out his red tricycle and takes off down the driveway, checking solemnly over his pacifier to make sure we’re watching. We are.
“Hey. Noah’s actually going forwards!”
“I know! Isn’t it amazing?”
In June, Noah could only pedal backwards, swooping his trike round and round the wrong way on the driveway in drunken circles before staggering dizzily off across the yard.
Isaac, the middle child, just learned to ride his bike without training wheels. “Ride” is an optimistic term, a concoction mixed from two parts forward motion and one part crash n’ burn on the asphalt. He begs me to watch and I do, resisting the urge to cover my eyes. He makes it to the mailbox without flying over the handlebars. I compliment his skill.
That’s nothing, he tells me modestly:
“Abby can ride her bike with her eyes closed.”
It’s only later that I remembered riding our bikes as kids. If you picked up enough speed going down the hill you could climb forward and stand, surfing, on the handlebars and bike frame. The key was diving off your bike in time before you flew into the street at the bottom of the hill.
At least we wore helmets.