…and so, after four interesting years, the tradition has finally evolved from learning to ride the bike every year to riding to school together (and soon…family rides!).
I like to mentally file memories as a little trick to try to improve my memory in general. An example would be my Words I Never Thought I Would Utter file, whose contents include such gems as “stop using your brother as a weapon”, “can we limit the chicken noises for today?”, and “no, we are not adding sharks…it’s a fire pit.”
Today’s bicycle adventure will be added to the The Things We Do for Our Children file. After only a few days of consistent riding (even though we did, in fact, start from square one again this year…beginning with the claim of never having ridden before…learning proved to be much faster this time) Little Man decided he really and truly wanted to ride his bike to school this morning. It is about a 2 mile ride, if you ride the back way through the neighborhoods to avoid main roads, and we have ridden it many times before with Little Man firmly attached to my bicycle on a piggy back bike. Of course, this morning proved to be the coldest morning we have had in the past few weeks at a little over 40 degrees F, but I did not by any means want to discourage the progress he has made. So, after digging out a pair of gloves for him to wear, removing the piggy back bike from mine, fastening his helmet on, and explaining why it would be very difficult for him to meet Paul Rudd for lunch one of these days, and why I do not, in fact, have Mr. Rudd’s number to give him a call to ask (you really have to be on your toes, and ready for many a twist and turn when engaging Little Man in any sort of conversation), we were off!
You may have noticed that I wrote “digging out a pair of gloves for him to wear”… As happens more often than not with the kids, I got him all set and neglected to apply the same logic to myself. We rode together in the frigid wind and despite a few stops here and there and a couple moments of anxiety (on MY part, mind you) we made it all the way to the school. The smile of pride on Little Man’s face as he dismounted his bicycle (which I had lovingly named Moby Bike…Little Man’s white whale) and told his friends that he had ridden all the way from home, was well worth what is probably the closest I have ever come to frost bite this late in April. And, when he earnestly asked if we had done the ride in record time, I smiled and very honestly answered, “yes!” Of course, I did not feel the need to mention which end of the record scale we were on (fastest v slowest). Now…let’s just hope it warms up before it is time to bike back over to ride home with him!
So…after watching a little guy (maybe three) in a waiting room methodically remove several tissues from the box on the table next to him, blow and vigorously clean his nose with each one,…then push them back into the box, all while his mom sat next to him (I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt here and imagine that she was temporarily checked out on a mental mom break), I found myself wondering which would occur first: would they leave so that I could quietly bring the box up to the desk and suggest they switch it out without embarrassing the mom? OR would someone else reach over and pull out a moist tissue, and check the box to see if the tissues included aloe…?
No worries…fate was kind….
Today in class Little Man’s teacher was talking about the globe and that line that divides the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. She explained that it wasn’t an actual line that one could see when crossing it and asked if anyone knew what it was called. After giving the hint that it started with an E, Little Man’s hand shot up.
“I know! The E-maginary line!”
(a special thanks to his wonderful teacher for sharing this!)
We all have an internal dictionary…you know…the one that offers us real life examples of the definitions of words as we go about our day. When we read the little italicized example after the definition in our paper dictionary (or electronic/online dictionary…as I suppose most people do not actually pick up the paper version anymore) sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn’t, BUT if something happens to us during the day that perfectly fits the definition of a word, then CLICK, a lightbulb jumps to life. “Now that’s (insert word being defined)!”
Here are some examples of this morning’s internal dictionary entries:
restraint – The extreme amount of force required not to throttle your teenager when she criticizes you for not having a back-up plan while you are trying to figure out how to get her to school after she has just missed the bus.
convenient – The little parking area near the bike path about a mile away from the school, where said teenager can be asked to leave the car and start walking.
satisfaction – The uplifting feeling you get while reading the angry I made it to school text from the teenager explaining that now she is SOOOO tired and her hair is SUUUUCH a mess…how could you be SOOOO cruel. (Perhaps I got my point across).
comic relief – Little Man suggesting that we add National Velociraptor Awareness Day to our calendar so that we do not forget to honor it next year.
Spring is finally in the air! The birds are singing, the sun is shining, and it is time for a family tradition we like to call “learning to ride the bike”. If this does not seem like it would necessarily fit into the category of a tradition, allow me to clarify. Little Man first learned to ride his balance bike when he was three. After having watched the girls react, in their day, to the removal of their training wheels as if they were undergoing the actual physical amputation of a limb, we decided against ever having the TW words be a part of Little Man’s bicycling experience. In no time at all, he was zipping down the driveway and scooting along the sidewalk after The Sisters (as he lovingly calls them), feet held high. We felt this to be a clear indication that he was ready to kick things up a notch and try a bike with pedals. By the end of that summer he had pedaled confidently a short distance down the sidewalk. The moment was captured on film, duly celebrated, and we were basking in our victory. The season ended, snowshoes and sleds replaced wheels, and the bikes were packed away. The End…or so we thought.
The next season (at age 4) we rolled out the bikes, got everyone’s tires properly inflated, checked gears, and prepared to lengthen Little Man’s biking distances…visions of family bike path excursions dancing in our heads.
“Ready to get back on the bike, Buddy?” I asked excitedly, presenting him with his freshly tuned bicycle.
“I don’t know how to ride a bike,” he declared.
“You learned how to ride your bike last year…remember?” I gently prodded.
“I don’t know how to ride a bike. I never rode that bike. Where is my balance bike?” he insisted.
Ah ha! I thought to myself. Now I’ve got you! I whipped out my cell phone and scrolled back to the footage from the previous year that had been sent out to two sets of proud grandparents…across the country and across the ocean.
He watched the video of himself riding down the sidewalk in front of our home, a little wobbly at first..then more steadily, while I scanned his face for signs of recognition. He took the whole thing in stone-faced. Obviously, a future poker player, I observed mentally. But there was no denying the evidence!
“That’s not me,” he declared and walked away, leaving me to gather my bottom jaw off the garage floor.
Ok, I thought, realizing that the nut would be a smidge harder to crack than first anticipated, future politician?
He spent the season reluctantly re-learning how to ride the bike…which was somewhat painful given the time and effort spent the year before. Once again, between summer trips, camps, and sisters’ soccer and softball games, we finally had him pretty comfortable on the bike (and had the videos to prove it…as if that would do us any good). School started with all of its activities and before we knew it, it was once again time to put the bikes away.
Another year rolled by, and out came the bikes…followed by Little Man’s selective amnesia. And so the pattern has gone for almost four years and three bicycles now…thereby qualifying it in my mind as a tradition.
Now he is seven and we are determined to substitute this tradition with a new one called “riding bikes as a family”. So, on one of the first nice sunny warm days of this spring, I brought up the subject of the bicycle and how nice it will be to ride all together.
“Bicycles are dangerous,” Little Man asserted.
“Well, Sweetie,” I explained, “lots of things can be dangerous if you aren’t careful and we are going to be really careful and wear helmets.”
Without missing a beat, he added, “and do you know what the most dangerous thing is?”
“What is the most dangerous thing?” I asked, taking the bait, hook line and sinker.
“Cows,” he answered gravely, “and bulls are THE most dangerous because they flip people off.”
After forcefully banishing the image of a bull flipping the bird and acknowledging to myself that he had meant rodeo style, I silently shifted into strategizing mode. Well played, I conceded mentally. Redirection AND fear mongering! There may very well be a political career in your future.
The next time the subject came up, I talked about rides over to the school playground and down to visit his friends. “If you want to get from point A to point B quickly, riding your bike will be the best way without polluting the air,” I explained.
He thought this over for a few minutes and decided. “I have already been to point B. I think I want to go to point Z.”
So, though he is clearly not thrilled (perhaps a bit of an understatement) with the idea of learning to ride the bike again, this time he seems to be much more receptive to the actual and eventual riding of the bike…a definite step in the right direction. The moral being: learning to do new things isn’t of much use (and that new knowledge can be quite frail, I might add) if one does not then do those things with some consistency.
Oh…and if you come across me trying to resume an activity after a significant span of time has passed, and I seem to need encouragement, please do not tell me “it’s like riding a bike”.
Some days would look so much more impressive on my fitness app if it could measure neuron activity…. I propose adding “cerebral marathon” as an option.
I try not to take it personally when my kids unload their anger or frustrations on me. I understand that this can be an exasperating world…believe you me, I understand…and I know that I am a safe person against whom to vent. Admittedly, at times, it can be hard not to suffer a ding or two to one’s feelings following a teen or preteen direct attack, but I take my mom job seriously and keep reminding myself that if I am going to establish rules and limits, the kids are going to test them. If I am going to put my foot down and say no to things that advertising and peer pressure relentlessly push them toward, because I feel in the deepest part of my soul that these things are not in their best interest, they are not likely going to simply agree and give in without a fight. After all, as much as it is my job to be the parent, it is their job to know everything already and to riddle me with “you don’t understand”s and “it’s not fair”s. They are just starting to spread their wings…to test their steel.
“Do you want me to detest you?” the Moon recently asked as I enforced a consequence after so many…perhaps, too many…warnings.
“Yes,” I answered without hesitation. “If you detest me in the moment because I am doing something that will be good for you in the long run. Yes. Detest away!”
She did not, of course, then jump into my arms in deep appreciation when I said this. Honestly, I would have wondered what she was plotting, if she had. But…I would like to think that something registered or was at least put aside to register later, behind the eye roll and scowl.
All of this simply makes those moments when they actually do appreciate the role I play in their lives much more satisfying. As fleeting as they may be at times, I can take that satisfaction and gratitude and store them in my soul as sustenance for when I am absorbing their angst and anger.
Right now I can say that my soul was amply replenished during a recent opportunity that came up with the Sun. Details of the situation are not necessary for the moment and would only draw away from the feelings involved…and perhaps sidetrack me into a rant on a whole different subject. Suffice to say, as much as I want my children to learn to handle themselves in all kinds of situations and know that this is necessary because I will not always be on this earth to help them with their battles, I am here now and there are some situations with which they need help because there are adults involved and, as children, they are not in a position to stick up for themselves without crossing lines of respect that should rightly stand. Anyhow, such an opportunity presented itself and I stepped up to bat and presented my argument in a pointed but respectful way in defense of the Sun, who stood sobbing behind me. I was fairly content with how I handled the situation, if perhaps still a bit heated on the inside, as self-restraint will at times leave one. Still, I could not get the image of how broken and despondent the Sun looked as I stepped back out of the scene and fought the urge to completely remove her from the situation. I had done my mom job, and felt I needed to step aside once again.
Later on that day, and after numerous errands and activities, she ran over to me and gave me a huge spontaneous hug. Gone were any traces of disheartenment. She was my vibrant Sun once again.
“Thank you, Mamma,” she said. “You were awesome today. You were Ninja Mom.”
That was all I needed. She knew I had her back and it felt wonderful. I ended up tapping into that wonderful feeling not even 15 minutes later, as I stepped into a room, dodged airborne Playstation remotes, and pulled Little Man off of her amidst screams of “TELL HIM TO STOP KILLING ME!” and “I WAS KILLING HER ON ACCIDENT!”
“By accident, Sweetie. By accident. Please stop killing your sister by accident.”
If you are reading this, no matter how you happened to stumble upon it, you may be wondering why I am writing it….
I am not selling anything, or showcasing a new diet, or starting a new exercise regimen. I am not posting recipes or self-help advice. There are plenty of much more qualified people out there doing all of those things…along with a multitude of unqualified people.
I simply enjoy writing and if I can make someone grin or even chuckle in the meantime, even better. There are, after all, so many reasons to frown, be anxious, or downright cry out there. Not that I don’t have my rants or concerns (do NOT get me started on standardized testing, for example), this just isn’t where you will find them, for the most part.
Why “The Sun, The Moon, and Little Man”? These are my children…not their names, obviously (or maybe not so obviously, given the names one comes across nowadays), but the way I see and experience them. My oldest, The Moon, is dreamy, creative, and intuitive, with all her anxieties, and swinging emotions. My middle child, The Sun, is vibrant, intense, and explosive, whether it be with joy or with anger, in her creativity or her moments of doubt. Then there’s Little Man, who strikes a balance and interprets the world as only he can, keeping me on my toes. Anyhow, it had a nice ring to it.