She asked me to pick her up on the Brompton after school. So I did. I packed the red bags for her feet and the camping pillow for her to sit on and the little pvc handlebar I made. She rides on the back rack like that. She voids my warranty like that. She sang the whole way, “Just as awesome as I want to be.” I think it’s from My Little Pony. Everything lately is from My Little Pony.
I rode on my own this morning. I kept my schedule really well this week, so I had some extra time to take a longer way. One with less hills and less cars and more grass. I love the city, but sometimes I need the trees and quieter moments. From my bike of course.
The ride was hot and fast. You can’t get stuck in your head too long on the bike in the city. It’s too hot. There are too many things to look at, watch for, you just have to be in it. I like that part the best. I’m in my head all day. It’s so good to be in my body.
It’s also way faster and more fun than traffic. And “just as awesome as I want to be!”
She had me ride behind her so I could tell her when a bike was coming. I don’t have a bell on my bike, so I announced, “Bike alert!” with every passing bike on the path. School is two miles from home, mostly on the bike path. It only took about 300 hours. Because this kid is very stoppy. She’ll get it though. A two mile bike commute on your 5th day riding with no training wheels is pretty impressive. Even if it takes 300 hours.
Riley the perfectionist learned to ride her bike without training wheels today. And by “learned” I mean “just did it” because that’s what perfectionist kids do. They wait. And wait. Then do it like they’ve been doing whatever it is their whole tiny lives. This was no different. Here’s how to teach a perfectionist kid how to ride a bike in 10 easy steps. So easy. It just takes forever and will make you lose your mind.
Purchase the child a balance bike thinking she will learn to balance on it, then watch her ride it for four years straight mostly with her feet on the ground not balancing. Because Perfectionist Child does what she wants.
Allow uncle to buy child a small bike with training wheels for 4th birthday. Watch child cry and cry and yell “Why did he buy me this?! I’m not ready!” on her birthday when you ask her to try it out.
Step Three through Seven:
Wait a lot and don’t talk about how other kids are riding without training wheels, or she will yell at you. This counts as a lot of steps because omg so much waiting. When you KNOW your kid is totally ready but they refuse, you have to wait and shhhh.
Talk about incentive and tell her that when she’s ready, she will get a stuffed animal for her Bravery and Courage.
Take the training wheels off, let the child cry and cry and yell at you not to hold on to her because it’s messing her up.
Let go and watch her ride away like she’s been doing this for a year. Because Perfectionist Child can’t stop, won’t stop.
We had plans to drive, to bring her tricycle she grew out of because she wanted to give something too, but plans these days don’t seem to align with life. We are in constant transition, from one house to the next. From empty house to full. As I loaded the dishwasher tonight of all coffee mugs and just two plates, I am closing out a solo weekend and adding in a lunch box and Hello Kitty water bottle to the top rack. It will all be clean by morning. Begin again.
We then had plans to take the train, but we were too late and they wouldn’t let us on with the one bike we managed. Because rush hour. Because we’re managing, just barely. So we walked. We walked to the bike shop to drop off a bike that’s been in the basement for a couple of years. A bike I bought before this kid showed up, when I was full of plans, plans that fit together nicely. A marriage, a house, a baby. Bikes for weekends. A dog to walk alongside the stroller. With cats to nap in the crib. Now those cats live at her other house where she spends half her time, with her other mom. The stroller was passed along to a friend. The dog is too old for long walks. And now the bike is walked down the path to be dropped off for a new life.
“Why are we giving away your bike, Mommy?”
“Because I don’t ride this one anymore.”
“But it’s yours!”
“I know. I like it, I just have another bike I use more and I want this bike to be used instead of sitting in our basement.”
“Yeah because now someone who has no bike can have your bike!”
“Right. Sometimes we get things we don’t use and it’s good to give them to other people who can use them.”
I texted a friend in tears. I told her I had to stop the monthly donations to our sponsored child in India, to our local food bank, I didn’t know if I’d have enough for groceries and the mortgage. She assured me it was okay. That we give when we can and sometimes we can’t, but eventually, I’d be able to give again. She reminded me that it’s okay to be in transition, to go into debt if needed, that I am okay.
But can you give when you have nothing left? These months of transition have felt a lot like nothing left.
One of the guys at the shop stopped working on a cargo bike to help us when we walked in. I told him we were there to donate the bike. Riley got shy and suddenly didn’t want to ask him all her questions she had planned on the walk over. She nudged at me, so I did my best to remember all she needed to know.
“Do you know where the bike will go? This is Riley and she’s curious about it.”
“I don’t know for sure, but these types of bikes usually go to our program in South America.”
“Do you know how it will get there? She’s wondering if it will be on a boat or a plane?”
“It will go on a boat in a big crate.”
Riley gasped at the thought of a giant boat carrying all the bikes. At age 6, she’s a bit possessive of her possessions. Perhaps more so lately, having two houses to share her stuff between. While she wanted someone who needs a bike to have it, she wasn’t so sure about giving them our bike. We went outside and she felt much better when she saw a big crate in the parking lot. We decided that the bike will ride in something like that to go on a big adventure to South America. Then she took my picture in front of it.
It’s just a bike, but it will soon be someone’s bike. Maybe it will be a bike that carries someone to work or school or for weekend adventures. When you have nothing left to give? You still have something to give. I still have something to give.
This year I am working with #MyPledge15 to continue the work Riley and I started today because a small pledge can have a big impact. My pledge is to support Bikes Not Bombs throughout this year by promoting their fundraisers and volunteering my time when I can to help load crates to ship bikes. Because these small efforts make a difference. Also because bikes.
The grass is finally green. I noticed and had to stop. I’m learning to stop more. During my recent 5 mile race, I stopped a few times and every time I did, I noticed that starting again was so much better. I told myself to remember this for regular life, too. So I’m trying. Today I was at the end of all the miles on the bike and close to home, but I stopped. I wasn’t tired, but I stopped anyway, trusting the break. I finished my latte, took some pictures. I watched the sun move behind the clouds. I just stood there on the bike path. I did a lot of nothing for a few minutes. It wasn’t extravagant. I didn’t reach enlightenment.
“Once we abandon the belief there is a more spiritually useful moment than the one we are in, we have embraced our life and infused it with the energy for awakening.” Rodney Smith
Stop more. Do nothing.
“How do you want to get to the party? We can walk, ride bikes, drive, or take the train.”
“Can I ride my bike and you ride yours?”
“That means you have to ride the whole way, though. And it’s kind of far. Do you think you can do it all the way there and home?”
“YES I CAN WE NEED TO RIDE OUR BIKES LET’S GO RIGHT NOW.”
She rode 3 miles. She was cautious and smart and more brave than scared and so strong. All that balance biking around the house all winter was training, apparently. We rode on the street and sidewalks and bike paths. We took turns leading the way. We checked in with each other and talked about how to be safe on the bike path and around cars and driveways and all the things. We love safety. She made it all the way home and even carried her own bike up the stairs and into our apartment to put away. We made all the plans about where we want to ride tomorrow during dinner. Because can’t stop, won’t stop. The bike love is strong around here.