Jose Escobar

It was a regular summer Saturday afternoon, or so I thought. Our block was full of
life. We had great neighbors with a good bunch of kids that our kids got along with
as soon as we moved in. We all looked out for each other. Te block was always full of
kids running around, playing, riding bikes, skateboards, and some of the older kids
had Razor scooters. Those are two-wheel toys that look like skateboards with a long
pole in the front and small handlebars that you could steer with; they were a little
challenging to maneuver until you got the hang of it. Tere were still plenty of kids
on their bikes. My daughter, Jillian, was one of those kids who was still on a bike. As
a matter of fact, she still had training wheels on it.
I was in the middle of my weekly chores, one of which was mowing the lawn, when
my daughter rode right up to the lawnmower and said, “Daddy, you have to take
these training wheels of right now; I can’t keep up with the rest of the kids.” Jillian
was one of the youngest kids on the block, but that never stopped her from joining
in on the fun. She always played with the bigger kids. She didn’t let her size or age
stop her. She was somewhat of a tomboy. I told her, “No, baby, I think you need a
little more time with the training wheels. Give it a couple more weeks, and I will take
them of and work with you.” Jillian was not having it. She would not move her bike
from in front of the lawnmower until I took those stupid training wheels of. That’s
what she called them.
On that beautiful summer day, I witnessed then what I realize today was one of my
proudest moments as a father. I also realize that it was a day that defined my daughter
as a person in my eyes. I took of those “stupid” training wheels and worked with her.
Up and down the block she rode with me hanging on the back of the bike. Some kids
were teasing her—of course, it was some of the older boys—and some were actually
cheering her on. I remember her best friend at the time, Myriam, saying, “Don’t
worry, Jillian, you got this; don’t give up.” I knew that was the last thing she was going
to do—give up. She was tired of getting left behind by all the other kids. They were
mostly older, and they were already riding two-wheelers. She was so frustrated yet so
determined to learn how to ride her bike; nothing was going to stop her.
I would hold on to the back of her bike so she wouldn’t fall. She was barking at me
to let go. She told me, “Dad, how am I supposed to learn if you don’t let me go?” At
that moment, she taught me a valuable lesson that we as parents must learn: We need
to let go of our children and let them travel the path that is set for them. As parents,
it is hard to let our kids go and grow out of the safety of our nests. We will always be
there if they fall, but we must let them fall to experience life for themselves.
What we think of ourselves and how we feel as a person has a great deal to do with
who we are and what we become. We all have strengths and weaknesses. If you are
blessed with the proper guidance you can excel at almost anything you are destined to
do. Tis guidance can come from your parents, teachers, counselors, and so on. But
let’s face it—not everyone grows up to be everything they can be. All the guidance
in the world still can fall short of our expectations of our children. As parents, we all
want our children to become lawyers, doctors, or astronauts. Tat might not be in the
cards for all of them. We are not all college material. Some of us will go on to follow
careers in the skilled labor fields, for example, as plumbers, carpenters, electricians,
barbers, and beauticians.
It is up to each of us to exploit our strengths and fortify our weaknesses. It all depends
on the drive we have within us; not even a parent can do it for you. College or trade
school? White collar or blue collar? Tis is a hard choice today, not only as young
adults entering the workforce but also as parents guiding our children. Te world
our children are entering is different from when our generation came of age. In Shop
Class as Soulcraft, Matthew B. Crawford worries that the world is becoming more and
more automated. Schools today are pushing for knowledge workers rather than shop
workers. Te traditional shop class has become antiquated. Te table saw has been
replaced with a desktop computer. What ordinary people once made they buy, and what they
once fixed themselves they replace or hire experts to repair. It seems that we
are getting lazier and lazier as a people. Tradesmen are disappearing at a time when
they are needed more than ever, and yet, the new generation doesn’t seem interested
in those professions. Te college graduates of tomorrow are not guaranteed jobs in
their fields of study. What do you do if you can’t find a job? Tis is a harsh reality
for the youth of the future. What do we advise our children and students to do? Te
dilemma of choosing between becoming “knowledge workers or shop workers” will
face young adults entering the workforce and their parents for years to come.
Te tradesman can simply point at the building that he helped build, the car that is
now running, the lights that are now on. Te craftsman can talk about his work and
show evidence of his work. My daughter showed evidence of her hard work by learning
how to ride a bike, and that skill will be with her the rest of her life. She is now
26 years old, and she has taken that drive and determination into her adulthood. She
went on to become a great student and a star athlete in high school and college, and
now she has taken her strength into the workforce. Tis proves that hard work and
determination pay off. My daughter was lucky and landed a job in her prospective
field; not everyone gets that lucky. In an ideal world, we all should learn a trade and
earn a living while we are pursuing our goals. In the real world, that is much easier
said than done. At the end of the day, I still think we need to get that degree to keep
us marketable, but we also need that safety net. A trade can be your safety net. Life
is hard. Te better we are prepared for it, the more successful we will become. These
are the decisions that we can’t make for our children. They must go on to pursue their
own happiness.
So, I let my daughter go. For the next two hours, she went up and down the block,
falling and scraping her knees and crying. She cried with aggravation until that
magical moment when she got on that bike and didn’t fall again the rest of the day. She
accomplished what she set out to do. I look at that bike in our garage to this day, and
I am still overwhelmed with a sense of pride. I still can’t get rid of it.