Just recently my 47-year-old son bought a motorcycle–a silver-colored 150cc Italika. He had never owned a motorcycle or driven one, so when we brought it to my place, he wanted to learn to ride it together. I had a Honda 350 for a year in the late 1970s, but I had not driven a motorcycle since then. Here in Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico, the streets are narrow, mostly broken cobblestones, circuitous, and very hilly. Although we thought the bike, which we named Lobo Solo (lone wolf), was relatively small when he bought it, once we began riding it, we quickly realized it was heavy and powerful. In fact, on my son’s second or third ride, he did an unintended wheelie and nearly crashed it. We agreed we needed a lot of practice before he could drive the bike from my place to his which was about 8 kilometers.
After several weeks of taking periodic short rides, he decided he was ready to do a loop that took him through the neighborhood to the busy highway which then connected to the other entrance back into the neighborhood. I watched somewhat anxiously from my driveway as he pulled out and made a right turn to start his loop which consisted of sharp corners, broken cobblestone, and a variety of other road surfaces.
After several uncomfortable minutes, he arrived with a gigantic grin on his face as he pulled into the driveway and stopped in the garage. As he dismounted the bike, we high-fived and hugged each other. He was very proud to show his father his accomplishment!
A while later, he was eager to do another loop to get even more comfortable with the bike and the terrain. So once again, I watched him leave. However, as he left, this time I noticed a little girl on her bicycle with her mother at her side. She obviously was just learning to ride and her mother was guiding her. The little girl saw me watching her, and as she rode slowly and shakily away, she kept looking back to see if I was watching her. About the third time she looked back, I applauded her. She smiled broadly, her eyes sparkling when a definite look of pride shaped her face as she looked at me and back at her mother!
Later that day when my son had left and I was relaxing on the terrace, I realized some things are universal and never change. One of those is a child’s need for the approval of a parent, as well as their need to feel a sense of competence. I had experienced and witnessed the same dynamic with my 47-year-old son as with a completely unfamiliar little girl from a different culture who spoke a different language. I felt that bond of affirmation and joy with both of them.
Yes. There will always be those basic human needs for affirmation and competence whether at age 47 or age 6. Some things never change.