I slowed to a stop at the corner as the young boy wobbled up the small hill on his shiny new bicycle. Helmet and elbow pads in place, the little boy huffed and puffed, a big smile on his face while his dad drove slowly alongside him in the family Volvo, making sure other drivers on the road gave his son the right-of-way. (You gotta give this kid credit - it's not easy learning to ride a bike in the hills of Piedmont).
Waiting for him to pass, I flashed-backed to my own protective mother teaching me to ride a bike many years ago on a warm summer evening in Sacramento. She ran beside me, her steady hand on the seat and handlebars of the Schwinn until she felt I was secure enough to let go. A gentle push and I was off - until I tried to make a sharp turn and . . . CRASH! A few tears, a skinned knee, a quick hug and some assurance from my mom and I was up and pedaling once again, pigtails flying in the wind.
When my turn as the parent came, I taught my kids exactly the same way, trying to navigate the delicate balance between holding on and letting go. I've been thinking a lot about that balance of late.
My older son, Case, left for his sophomore year of college at the University of Arizona six weeks ago and since then, I've spoken to him only twice - and both times I initiated the contact (no surprise there).
"How's it going? I cheerfully asked.
"Fine," Case answered.
"How's the new house and the roommate situation?" I pressed.
"Good," he replied.
"How are your classes?" (C'mon Case, throw me a bone.)
"They're okay. I gotta go now mom." CLICK!
(Other knowing parents tell me I'll have better luck if I "text" him. I'm questioning just how much I'm paying for college!)
I think back to when I moved down to Los Angeles at the tender age of nineteen with little more than my dreams, a futon, and a dance bag crammed into my used Toyota Celica. Rarely did I ever phone home. (Sorry about that mom and dad.) I'd left college to pursue a dance career - foolishly and fearlessly perhaps - but my parents hadn't tried to stop me. I was the fifth in a long line of children and they'd already mastered the art of letting go.
After running alongside buyers and sellers - often times for months - there comes a moment in every transaction when we have to simply surrender to the process and "let go." It's a point at which the outcome is no longer ours to steer. That's when suddenly the idea of selling and leaving a home you've loved and cherished for years (or decades!), OR buying one that's in need of major work, OR changing towns, OR changing jobs, OR changing lifestyles - can literally be overwhelming. At these moments, there's often a natural push back, when strong emotions begin to surface and second guessing comes into play. If we don't carefully reign in our objections or expectations with respect to the buying and selling process, this tipping point in negotiations can literally "crash" the deal.
The truth is that even the most reasonable of buyers or sellers are likely going to have a moment of doubt as the finish line approaches and it's important (necessary even) to acknowledge and honor that process. A good night's rest, some thoughtful introspection, a great deal of careful consideration, and a bit of understanding about the stakes involved, and buyers and sellers are generally back up and pedaling once again.
With a steady hand, a gentle push and some keen guidance, the ride gets easier with practice!
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.