This morning, I accompanied my children as they rode their bikes to school. It is only a two-mile trek, but the course is not exactly direct and smooth. Half the route consists of a true paved bike trail, but the remainder includes steep grassy hills, walking our bikes across a bridge, a gravel parking lot and traversing a muddy roadside stretch without a sidewalk. It takes about 25 minutes one way with children—and 10 when I bike home solo. It is entirely doable with 8 year olds, but not exactly easy.
It was a brisk ride this morning as we left home at 7:30. K & R were excitedly willing to take on the adventure. My book-loving, exercise averse P was far less enthusiastic. He complained. He whined. He lagged behind. At one point he even cried.
R ignored him. K encouraged him. I vacillated between the two responses.
“You can do hard things.”
“Come on, buddy, you are doing great.”
“Whining just makes it worse. Let’s go.”
In the quiet moments I questioned ‘pushing’ him. Does this make me a ‘bad Mom?’ Isn’t the point for this to be fun?
Sometimes the point is simply that it is good for us.
In the early years of parenting we spend so much time caring for our vulnerable, helpless babes—but as they progress through childhood our role shifts. We move from coddler to coach. Our job is not to keep them ever safe in the nest, but to prepare them to launch.
Biking to school is not convenient. I am not a hard core athlete. Instead of my preferred method of easing into my morning, I have to get dressed. I confess I am embarrassed at how dorky I look arriving to school all helmeted up as the other parents drive by warm and cute in their cars. Instead of the XM radio, seat warmers and a hot cup of coffee, I have whining kids & a sore bottom on an uncomfortable bike seat.
There were moments of peace and splendor. We got to hear the birds, really notice the sunrise, smell the fresh Spring blossoms, work our muscles and push each other. And during the challenging 25 minute ride there was a 30 second stretch along the river where P and I each had a magical looking rainbow around our shadows. (K & R had zoomed ahead and left us in the dust.)
We also had plenty of time to practice the verse I KNOW P will carry from his childhood because it works so well with the rhythm of pedaling. “I can do all things (puff) through Christ who gives me strength (puff). I can do all things (puff) through Christ who gives me strength (puff).”
After all the huffing & puffing, we finally made it to school just before the bell. I looked at P as he was peeling off his helmet. “Hey, aren’t you proud of yourself?”
“Not yet,” he replied.
And then I got to bike home alone and watch the clock for my chance to bike back at pick up time and do it all again…with tired little people who’d been at school for seven hours.
On the return trip there were tears and even a moment (or two) when I was frightened by a perceived danger and yelled. Backpacks were heavier. We were tired. The adventure had lost its luster.
And it occurred to me that I could totally relate. I found myself more compassionate—but also recommitted to teaching them to not give up.
My children were experiencing a glimpse of the reality of life.
So many times in parenting, in marriage, in exercise, in friendships… I find myself overwhelmed by the hard work. What started with such enthusiasm collides into the reality of life. I get tired. The load seems too great. My adventure is just not fun anymore. Some days we just have to keep going—remembering we have a destination–and reciting the promises of God:
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
As we turned onto our street little legs seemed to be revived. The end was in sight. As our house came into view there were grins all around and as we turned into the driveway, shouts of laughter and joy.
It was challenging. We were weary, but we had made it home.
As we were walking in the back door I had another moment with P, “Hey. That was HARD and we did it. Aren’t you proud of yourself?”
“Kind of,” he admitted.
“Well, I am very proud of you. You were once a 2 ½ pound baby and people weren’t sure you would walk—those folks would never believe what you are doing now, buddy.”
At that he grinned, and with a wisdom that belies his age he replied, “Thanks for reminding me, Mom.”
We all need reminding sometimes—of the miracles that are our very lives. Each of us have a story…people who thought we’d never this or that and times when we believed them. Today I am challenged to pause, remember and celebrate that with the Lord we can do hard things through His strength.