beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

Riding the Wheel

“Count Leo Tolstoi, the Russian novelist, now rides the wheel,
much to the astonishment of the peasants on his estate.”
Scientific Amercian
April 18, 1896

Gosh, I know how those peasants feel.

Riding a bicycle balances risk and accomplishment on the very fine edge of a blade, and to send our small children intentionally down that path feels a lot like parenting, condensed.

Our hearts beat quickly, our breath becomes shallow, and we cheer and we cringe in equal measure as we mamas and dads watch our children succeed and then fail in rapid succession, from one push of the pedal to the next.

“Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it, if you live.”
Mark Twain, Taming the Bicycle

Sometimes when I write, it’s with fond memories, my fingers flying over the keys to capture the funny moments. The hilarity. The absurd. The ridiculous.

Sometimes when I write, it’s with vague concepts that tease me from my peripheral vision, flitting out of sight as soon as I turn my head. I type and I delete and I type and I delete and I type and I delete.

And sometimes when I write, I feel again what I felt when I was there. This is that time. I’m jittery and nervous and elated all over again, as though I’m standing on the asphalt path in the woods and watching my boys harness their courage and speed and fear of failure. Watching them triumph over the falls and scratches and scrapes. Watching them choose perseverance and attempt again that at which they have only ever failed, because, by some magic of the human mixed with divine, they choose to believe that this time will be different and that this time they will succeed and this time they will FLY.

We’re all up on two wheels now. All of us! Seven people.

Which feels big. HUGE. As though my two five-year-olds learning to ride bikes grants our whole family new freedoms and opens all of us to wild possibilities. As though their victory is really our victory. And as though they’ve tied our hearts like kites to the back of their bikes to send us aloft with their joy and philosophy.

“It’s not about the bike.”
Lance Armstrong

Ah, boys.

You’re doing such a very fine job of being you.

“Look at mmmeeeeee!”
Cai Woolsey, age 5

Way to fly, babies mine. Way to FLY.


“After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.”
H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance


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7 responses to “Riding the Wheel”

  1. I hope to one day own a bike of my own–I’d like it to be a pretty one 😉 –and we need to teach two of the kids to ride without training wheels. I keep thinking it would be fun to do, but what do I know? I haven’t owned a bike since high school.

  2. Congratulations on this family milestone! I often dream of the day when we can all be on wheels, although in my case I dream of rollerblading together. But seeing as our youngest is a mere 18 months (and not even walking yet), and how we still want to add another child or two to the mix, my dream still lies in the distant future! Enjoy the warmer weather and bicycles!

  3. Lovely photo-essay!!! I understand how it feels to have one on training wheels, how you don’t feel like you can go as far or as fast.

    Sadly, by the time my 4th figured out the 2-wheel thing, _my_ bike had been stolen, so we still couldn’t go on family rides (and then I was pregnant, and now there’s a baby, so the whole cycle has started all over again…).

    Hit the trails and have a great time in the coming months! I love finding your updates!

  4. So timely Beth! Our 7(!) year old just took off flying this past week by himself. He now joins his older brother and sister in the experience of freedom while we patiently wait for the two 5 year olds to come along. All three of the little ones (7,5,5) “really just want to ride our scooters”. It was only after seeing another kid that he admires ride his bike without training wheels that our 7 year old said he was ready to give it a try. No training wheels or nothin’, he just got on and took off. I anticipated having to run next to him around the entire cul de sac over and over again but I barely ran 3 steps before he no longer needed my steady hand. I was elated and bummed all at the same time. He needed me but just not that much. Story of their lives it seems as they get older. Love it!~

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