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Bike Ride

by The Next Family August 26, 2010

By: Danny Thomas

Today we went for a bike ride…
We left the house at about 9:30 am.
The children’s interest in breakfast was nominal…
As was my interest in engaging in a battle over sitting at the table and eating…
So knowing that we had a long, car-less day ahead of us, I undertook a previously talked about and anticipated loooong bike ride to a particular park that we drive past often – but that is about twice as far as our usual bike ride… a four mile trip.
The ride there was fabulous – we tried one time before but did not make it – we have to cross a lot of busy streets and parking lots to get there so I am a stickler about good listening and careful riding.
This time Lil’ Chaos did amazingly well – stuck close and followed directions with zero attitude.
We had a great time at the park – although the park leaves a little to be desired – there is a ginormous grassy hill which is cool – but the playground is kind of sucky – it does not have many great climbing toys and does have the dreaded merry-go-round – or as I like to call it “the concussion on wheels.”
On the way home –as our energy was wearing thin and we were riding against the wind – Wobzilla fell asleep hunched over my handlebars…
The return trip – no matter how great or small the distance – is often a challenge for Lil’ Chaos and me.
I am ready to be home and often uncomfortably hot and sweaty… duh.
Lil’ Chaos is usually tired and, in line with the converse, non-linear logic of the pre-k set, not eager to get home…
She goes slow.
I mean snail slow…
I try to let her lead and set the pace but I start to fall off my bike…
We stop and look at every slightly discolored blade of grass. Air becomes a distraction.
She starts to complain about her hair, her shoes, her skin…
If I move ahead, at any speed, I am going too fast…
Today, I vowed to myself not to fall into that pattern.
I would be patient. She could set the pace, we could examine the flattened bumblebees on the sidewalk – we didn’t have any where to be; Wobzilla was asleep on my handlebars, no problem…

We made a friend.
A poor, unsuspecting, twenty-something jogger…
Maya latched on to him and for 6 blocks quizzed him on topics ranging from his love life (Are you married? to a boy or a girl? Why?), to fashion (your shoes are white, white, white, white…), to modes of transport (Why are you running? Do you have a bike? Do you have a motorcycle?).
He was very conversational and polite and friendly, open to her interview. I’d say we were actually all quite entertained (except Wobzilla who was drooling on the handlebars…).
But then we hit the section of the trip with many busy driveways, with lots of traffic, with big four-lane intersections, all that stuff that makes me nervous even when I’m on a bike by myself…
Lil’ Chaos did not want to take a break from interviewing her new pal and take directions from me – and she made it very clear.
I tried to be patient, I tried to be understanding… I didn’t want to dampen the joy of spontaneous conversation with friendly strangers as I find it to be one of life’s most pleasant, enlightening, uplifting and sometimes mystical experiences… far be it from me to poop all over that kind of experience, on the other hand, if one rides one’s bike into an F250 hauling a ton of bark mulch out of the Home Depot driveway, there is a chance all future pleasant, enlightening and uplifting conversations with strangers will be limited to a handful of nurses and doctors…
Lil’ Chaos was not convinced – and we shifted into our typical stubborn mule mode of return ride… me leading a block ahead – circling back with, first, words of encouragement, then optimistic bargaining, then angry appeals, then pleas of desperation.
Needless to say, we went head to head, we both lost it – and the joy of the day’s bike ride ended up with what I guess is the typical tarnish of the family experience –conflict…
What I am thinking about now is if there is a positive way to approach this inevitable conflict, how to channel it, how to use it; I know conflict is vital and necessary to human interaction, as a collaborative artist, on a philosophical and intellectual level I can totally get behind that – as a father it’s pretty demoralizing…
I ended up riding home trying to imagine myself through the jogger’s eyes, which just led me to question every choice I made….
Am I overreacting?
Did I overreact?
Am I over protective?
Am I too detached?
Over attached?
Under attached?
An attaché?
Could I be more compassionate?
Am I too soft?
Am I too inconsistent, swinging moment to moment between understanding advocate and firm authoritarian?
Questions, questions, questions…
It’s always been a pretty vociferous part of my inner monologue – but as a parent the noise is deafening.
I guess it’s good and healthy to be analytical, to question and examine our choices, work out a different plan, or figure out how to alter the plan for next time.
Tonight, it feels like a lot of work…

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