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My ex’s grandfather died today. And my Kitchen-Aid mixer is still packed from the kitchen remodel, so I couldn’t make chocolate chip cookies. If you know me, you know that I believe most things can be fixed by making chocolate chip cookies.
It’s not often that I cry, but this old man was a good soul — he’s worth a tear or two or ten. My son heard me and got out of bed. There’s a line where motherhood meets humanity and tonight, humanity won.
Tonight’s story isn’t really one for the public, except, I never want to forget it. And I’ve long since given up journals.
My boy came out to the livingroom in his green footy pajamas, and stated, “As your Right Hand Man, I want to know if there is anything I can do for you.”
I said, “Yeah, you can go to bed, it’s 10 p.m.”
And he said, “Blue puppy (his stuffed animal since birth) and my pillow and I have been camped out right here (pointing to the hallway) and we can hear you cry.”
I replied, “Crying isn’t always bad. I’m happy and safe and it’s time for you to go to bed.”
And my dear little man stood, hands animated like I couldn’t believe:
“There are three things you need to understand:
One: We men always play to our strengths. People who know how to play Bridge understand this, but you don’t know how to play Bridge.
Two: You have to put your hobbies first when you speak. What are your hobbies, Mom? Cooking? That’s not a hobby. Kids? I’m not a hobby, mom! You have to think of a good hobbies. You like football. And soccer. Those are good hobbies.
Three: You say things like ‘happiness’ and ‘health’ and ‘karma’ but those are all spiritual things. Don’t say spiritual things. You can say hobbies. Like if you say ‘technology’ I will say that’s a good one.”
I literally was struck silent. In fact, even as I type, I’m still shocked, just trying to type before I forget what he said.
I teased him, “Technology my bum, little one!”
He wouldn’t budge.
I asked him if he wanted to call my ex. He said, “Some things need time. I will call her another day.”
Again, he struck me silent.
“Everything is fine, son,” I told him.
He looked at me, standing in the hall in his green footy pajamas and Blue Puppy hanging from his fist, “I know. But I’m your right hand man.”
I knew when the kids asked about the meaning of Mardi Gras, that it was all over. Dang inquisitive little people are relentless on a mommy who doesn’t really want to talk about the murder of Christ while running carpool to ballet class. These conversations always happen in the car, and inevitably when I’m running late.
Where to start? Twelfth Night? The Three Kings? Magic? Dark magic Ann Rice-type stuff? Ash Wednesday? Sin? None quite appropriate for two smiley faced 7-year-olds. But again, my kids proved to me, as they always do, that they grasp the meaning of life so much more than I ever will.
I told them about Fat Tuesday and the meaning of the word Mardi Gras, I told them that the next day began a long, quiet time for Catholics who sacrifice something each year to remember Christ’s long, quite time in the desert away from family and friends. I told them when he came back that he was killed for the things he believed in. I told them, as to the best of my recollection from Catholic school, that Easter was not about a bunny, but about Jesus rising from the dead. It’s hard to tell this story, because my own beliefs are more along the Spring Solstice than the death and rising of a man, but I tried to be objective. Yes, Fat Tuesday is a party, but it’s not just for party sake.
“I will give up ice cream for Lent,” my Thing 1 said frankly. “Me too. And guacamole,” my Thing 2 chimed in.
I explained that our family is not a family of religion, but of faith. I told them that this type of sacrifice was not necessary. They nodded at me in complete disagreement:
“I believe in the good of every religion. I believe in the good in every friend. I am going to do Lent with them, because if they are giving up something for what they believe in, they I should do it with them to make it easier.”
And so it was decided. My religionless little children, Christlike without knowing who Christ even is, decided our fate for the next 40 days.
“I want to be Cesar Chavez. I want to be like him. I want to help people and I want my own flag. Will you help me, mom?”
Oh yes, son. Yes, I will follow you and your passion to the end of the earth.
I taught my kids to ride their bikes on an overcast Saturday morning. It took all of ten minutes to teach them how, and at the bottom of this post, I’ll teach you how. It’s an amazing rite of passage and, for me, one that passed too quickly. I can remember so clearly watching them wobble down the park path, a mix of fear and triumph on their faces — I’m certain my face said the same. I was ready to peel them up off the road and kiss every boo-boo and failed attempt. And, I did.
Now, three years later, my kids can ride up to 15 miles, know road rules, ride in streets and on trails. But with this awesomeness, comes the letting go of being able to kiss it away when they crash, hit a hard bump or get distracted and smash into one-another, falling into an embarrassed heap. The kids fall, pick up their gear, their bikes and one-another. They inspect scrapes, wipe off dirt and get back on their bikes all before I can get to them and offer a mommy kiss. Sometimes I wish we could go back to training wheels.
Here’s my sure-fire way to get a kid off training wheels. Do exactly what I say and your kid will be riding the trails in no time at all. My kid were three turning four when I taught them to ride.
1. Tell them days ahead of time that by Sunday they will be riding without training wheels. Plan a ride together. Drive it, show it to them on a map. It’s a big person ride! Don’t say “if you get off your training wheels” or anything like that, it’s simply something that they *are* going to do with the family this weekend.
2. Remove the pedals. Some bikes require a tool for this and be sure to plan ahead if you need to take the bike to the bike store (If you live in San Jose,Hyland Bikes is the best place in town for this).
3. Lower the seat to the very lowest it can go.
4. Find a park with a slight incline path. This is an important part: Do not try this on a sidewalk. Again, if you live in San Jose, there is a great path near the tennis courts at Bramhall Park. Ideally it is wide with a very slight incline and grass on both sides.
5. Put your kid on the bike and pat their left thigh. Tell your child this is ONE. Pat the right thigh. This is TWO. Ask your child, “Which is one? Which is two?” Have them glide on the bike as you call out “One!” “Two!” They should put their foot down on the leg you are calling out. Have fun with this down the path a bit. If they lean a bit to the left, call out “Two!” to have them lean right. Get it?
6. Glide a few times using One and Two until they are comfortable with it. Slow down the timing of calling out. So call out “One!” then wait a second or two before calling out “Two!” The reason for this is to make sure your child is using the right timing in balancing their bodies and this simulates the amount of time it takes to rotate the legs on the pedals.
7. Put the pedals on. Try not to make a big deal of it. “Great! Now we put the pedals on.” Keep the seat low. Have your child do the One and Two count while just sitting still on the bike. One foot down then the other.
8. Hold onto the back of the seat and the one of the handlebars. Give a good push off and be sure to count outloud, “One!” “Two” as your child needs to balance on each side. If they tip right, call out “One!” to get them to shift balance to the left. You’re almost there.
9. Put the seat up slightly.
10. This is it. Repeat step 8 a few times and your child will be riding. I guarantee it.
We got some great games for Christmas. The favorite is Sequence; States and Capitals, a kids’ take on our own favorite game, Sequence. We spent a hour playing both games with the kids, watching them figure out strategies, working on defense and offensive moves. It hit me at some point that we’re a far cry from Chutes and Ladders and CandyLand. I found myself having fun with the kids. It was more rich for us as a family than Candy Cane Lane.
There are so many times I mourn my babies growing up. Lately they look so big, so grown-up. It can make a mommy a little nostalgic. But nights like these remind me that as they grow, so does our relationship as a family. I loved family game night, munching on tortilla chips, smack-talking and high-fiving our way around the dining room table.