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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 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.
We had a look at last year’s New Year’s Resolutions today and saw that, for the most part, we had accomplished all of our New Year’s Goals. I got a pass on mine since my number one resolution was to run six half-marathons instead of five from the previous year. But there wasn’t much I could do about destroying my knee. So we’ll just pass on that one, right?
This year’s resolutions were made on the back of a receipt while munching tacos on New Year’s Eve day. Here they are:
Get more fit. Run more. Gym more.
See my friends more often
Get back to fighting shape even without distance running
Get a job I love while being able to pick kids up each day from school
Read lots of books
Learn an instrument
Finish year five in dance and get the 5 yr. trophy
Read the rest of the Magic Tree House collection in Spanish
Learn an instrument
Play lots of Club Penguin
Just one more day to go — one more rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” just one more “How many days left, mom?,” just one more shake of the snow globe.