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Friday, May 29, 2009

Rainy Day Bike Ride

A Rainy Day Lesson
Written Spring 2006

A rainy day in Washington. Nothing unusual there. But, when you’re born and bred in Southern California, constant moisture is a new thing. We’re adjusting. On this particular day we’ve been in Washington for a few weeks and still our house looks like the Demon of Choas has been a long time houseguest. With three girls under 3 it’s hard to get work done quickly. I remember when I could set up house in a weekend. Now, I’m lucky if I get a shower in a weekend. So, on this particular day our kids are with a babysitter while my husband and I work furiously to get as much done as possible. We haven’t even taken a break for food, unless you count the Red Vines and chocolate chip cookies we’ve been living on all day. But for one moment on this wet day we are distracted by something outside.
With the incredible view from our living room we can see Puget Sound and all the houses around us, even the local school. At the moment the rain has stopped, though the air still hangs heavy with moisture. Just up the street on the school grounds is a little girl in a pink coat and green helmet learning how to ride her bike. A man (presumably her father) is her coach. She is safe, surrounded by the fences of the school in the basketball court. She makes her way slowly in a circle and falls. Ouch. But she’s tough. She gets back up and dusts herself off. She’s a little wet, a little cold, but this is the day she’s been waiting for. Her independence. A bike. And the ability to navigate that bike safely and quickly. It’s a dream come true for this young girl. So, undaunted, she gets back on the bike. This time she makes her way around the court more quickly, and she stays on longer. Another fall. Another try. Over and over she gets back up on the bike and keeps going. At the end of the lesson she gets to ride the bike up the street to her house, where her family comes out to greet her and encourage her in her success.
There will be more falls, to be sure. But they’ll become less and less as she learns, as her body adapts to this new trick. And she’ll keep getting up and dusting herself off and getting back on the bike.
Our daughters are too young for this experience yet. But soon we’ll be that parent standing outside encouraging, teaching and demonstrating. We’ll be there for them, but we’ll also stand back and let them learn the lessons they need to learn. I wonder what we’ll say. I can hear my husband give his usual line when something unpleasant befalls our little ones. In a kind, daddy voice, “Well, that happens sometimes. It’s ok. Here let me kiss it.” I’m sure the father of that girl said something along those lines. “It’s alright. You’re doing great. Try it again. I’m right here.” And he is, but he hangs back, giving the girl space to try and fail. And try again and succeed on her own.
It’s hard as a parent to let go of that bike, but let go we must. A little at a time. Fortunately we are given time to learn this lesson. Baby steps, if you will. First they learn to crawl, in that awkward injured warrior kind of way they have of dragging themselves across the room. Then they learn to walk. Over and over they fall as we let go of their hand. But they keep getting up. And eventually they get it, and we learn to let go. Occasionally they’ll let us hold their hand again, but they’re big girls now.
And it’s incredible, really, that we all go through this. We all learned the basics surrounded by something safe. And we all got it, after time. I don’t see many adults crawling to work. Somehow the tenacity of the human spirit keeps us getting back up over and over again. As we grow older the lessons become harder, the bruises deeper. Sometimes it takes us longer to get back up. Some people give up, and don’t get back up. They lose hope. They lose courage. I can understand this. I’ve been there. I’ve had moments of such despair that I thought surely this is the end. I cannot get back up. I cannot get back on the bike of life. I just can’t. And I moan and cry and remain heartbroken for a time, but then the despair becomes anger, and the anger becomes a motivator of change, and in time hope returns. Then I get back up, dust myself off and look around. The scary world around me has changed. I see the fences of safety I have created for myself. Boundaries and lines that are not meant to be crossed. Healthy boundaries that allow me my freedom with safety. And then I look and see my family has come out to greet me, to congratulate me on my successes. My husband, my babies, my parents and siblings, my dearest friends. They offer me compassion, hope, refuge and encouragement.
The lessons we learn on those bikes when we are so young are lessons to remember for life. When you fall off, get back up. Dust off, and get back on. You will get it eventually. And you will be proud and free, and loved by those around you in the process. These are the lessons I hope to teach my little girls as they grow into these experiences. But my words won’t teach them this. Only my life; my actions. They may not listen to what I say, but I know they’re watching. I see them mimic me every day. Scary. Telling. And I know that I will get back up, every time. Because those little eyes will be waiting to see what mommy does, and they will learn their lessons. Just as I did. Just as you will. So happy riding. In rain or sunshine, be encouraged on your journey. And enjoy the view along the way. You never know what you will learn next.