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Author of: The Notes They Played - a lyrical collection of short stories & The Impossible - a what-if story of the triumph over fear

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Balance, Pedal, Steer!

Sometimes I think about the pleasure I'll have, when I FINALLY have an empty nest, when I reminisce about all the little things that I took for granted, or even grumbled about; the day-to-day things that are just part of raising kids. All the trifles that felt mundane or weighed on me. Teaching each of my children to ride their bikes without training wheels will be one of those things.


I taught all four of them. We live on a busy street, so our driveway only serves to help with the beginning stages of the learning process. I always used the mantra "balance, pedal, steer." You've got to do all three at the same time. You stop any of them, and you fall. Once they got the basics down, I'd take them to a larger area. 

The boys learned on a day that promised a 100% chance of thunderstorms. But, I'd planned to teach them, and by golly, they would learn! So, I packed them up, along with their bikes, their infant sister, and her stroller. We headed to their elementary school. They were learning together because 1) my eldest really should have been taught already, 2) the youngest was ready so why not just do it, 3) they are only 16 months apart, so it wasn't THAT bad that I'd waited until they were both ready. 

Unfortunately, they learned with an impatient mother who was worried about the impending storms, worried that they would not learn before those storms rolled in, worried I'd have to do all the heavy lifting another day, worried that the baby would fuss and cry and not sit patiently, worried that I didn't have it in me to teach them and they would end up like me - not learning until they were 12! I let worry dictate my state of mind. The entire experience was miserable and exhausting for all of us, with me insisting and impatient and them frustrated and afraid they'd disappoint.

They did learn that day, both of them. Before it started raining. With their baby sister looking on in her stroller, patiently. And, their joy (and mine) almost negated the terrible way I'd taught them.

My eldest daughter learned in another elementary school parking lot. The boys and I were running pacers every morning during that summer with my friend Rod and his boys (their friends). We had been late meeting them that morning, rushed and frazzled. The boys got started on their pacers and I tried to get daughter #1 on her bike. "You didn't bring the knee pads!" The look on her face made clear that she was not getting on that thing without them. I left all the kids with Rod, and rushed back home to get the knee pads. I came back to a child who knew how to ride. Just like that! In 10 minutes. I suspect Rod had something to do with it, but he maintained that she'd done it on her own. She agrees.

With my baby, like everything else from potty training on, she'd decided well before I was ready to teach her, that it was time for her to learn. We practiced in the driveway for several sessions, as I'd done with the other three, and Hubby and I had taken her to pick out her very own bike. She walked up and down the aisles in the store over and over, inspecting each bike carefully before she finally decided on a purple matte finish. It was a beauty! 

And then when it was time to go out and learn, she'd balked. She was afraid. She didn't want to fall. So I responded the way every patient and loving mother does - I referenced the amount of money we'd paid for the bike because she'd said she was willing to learn, and I threatened to give the bike away to a little girl who deserved it.

And for several days, we didn't mention it; I in my frustration and her in her fear. And then my sweet youngest came to me and said, "Mommy I prayed to God and now I'm brave. I want to learn to ride my bike." 

I'm so thankful that God steps in to manage the situations that I botch. I'm also pleased that my kids can harvest from seeds I've planted, even when I've neglected to water them. 

So, we started in the driveway. Balance, Pedal, Steer! As with the other kids, she needed a bigger space to master the pedal and steer. I told her that she needed to be focused and look ahead to where she wanted to go. Because when she got distracted by the puppy or her sister, or anything (and everything) else, she would look there and go there instead of where she meant to. We went to her elementary school. Balance, Pedal, Steer! And then she did it! Oh, the joy!!!

It occurred to me as I watched her balancing and pedaling and steering, and as I gave her the direction to LOOK where she wanted to GO, that life is a lot like riding a bike...

My lack of patience with my children often comes from the pressure of things to be done. I have a running list of things to do each day and my pleasure often comes from getting them done, instead of how I got them done. Their busy schedules make life even more chaotic. Balance means putting what is essential FIRST, placing what is optional next, and wiping away or limiting the things that don't matter. In Matthew 6:33-34, we are instructed, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow..."

It's so typical of me to be overwhelmed and preoccupied by what things are to come when I'm supposed to be focused on God first! His timing is what I have to focus on. To trust that the rain will come when it's supposed to, and that if it does come, time will be granted later. There is nothing wrong with later. I have to do better at trusting God to make sure that everything will work out, when it should (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) because when I trust Him, it does. When I trust Him, patience abounds. I can speak to my children in a way that is good for building them up, with grace (Ephesians 4:29).

Pedal. Oh, how easy it is for me to wish that my life was easier - less cooking, less cleaning, less chauffeuring, less homework review, less refereeing. Galatians 6:9 says, "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." The truth is that I'm investing in my family. What a blessing that I can! And, if I'm going to do it, I might as well do it joyfully (Galatians 5:22). I love these 5 heartbeats that I live with. LOVE them. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures (1 Corinthians 13:7).  

And, let's be real - my life really is easy, even on the days it feels hard! No matter how overwhelmed I get about cooking - Thank God I have food to cook. Cleaning? Praise the Lord for this house with heat and lights and running water. Driving my kids around? Blessings abound - money to pay for sports, a safe place for them to do it, a vehicle to get us there. 

Where we look is where we go. It's true with bike riding and it's true with life. Proverbs 4: 25-27 instructs, "Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil." 

The best example I can be for my children is of a mother with focus; who looks directly ahead to God as my guide. I must be mindful of the path that I take, and wise in directing my family's path. Prayer about all things brings wisdom. Wisdom brings clarity and surety. There is only one way to be sure that we are going in the right direction. And, once we're headed there, we must pedal with everything in us, and maintain balance. In this way we won't need the knee pads!