Fast Friendships

“Molly!” a little girl cried, her red curls bouncing as she ran over. “I missed you so much!” Another busy weekend had passed, and I was dropping Molly off at school on a chilly Monday morning. “I made you something!” the girl chattered excitedly, opening her backpack, and fishing out a piece of paper. Molly stood quietly by, clutching my hand tightly. The little girl smiled as Molly unfolded the card, which read “Dear Molly, I missed you. You are the best girl in the world!” My heart kersploded into a million pieces, as Molly thanked the girl and gave her a hug. As those adorable red curls bounced away, I turned to Molly and said “that was so nice! What’s that girl’s name?” Putting the card in her pocket, Molly shrugged and said, “I dunno.”

Ah yes, the mercurial friendships of five-year-old kids. One day you’re best friends with someone, the next day you can’t remember their name. Oh, to be five years old again! Where misremembering your classmate’s name is normal, instead of a social faux-pas. If only adults had the grace of children, to forgive us when names are forgotten!

It seems like most young kids are social butterflies, flitting happily from person to person. As I kissed Molly goodbye, I thought back through the cobwebs of time to my own kindergarten year. I remembered a little brunette named Ginny, who was the best artist in the class, and Laura, whose mother cut her hair into a painfully short pageboy cut. Then there was Lucas, the cutest boy in kindergarten, who could flare his nostrils on command and delighted in doing so. Kids are so great at living in the moment; the future is so far away as to be indefinite, the past already gone. Nothing exists except how they feel right now; ask them what they’ll be doing in six months, and they’ll have no idea, because six months is a lifetime away. Friendships are fast and furious, made and broken in the span of a lunch hour. Hopefully the drama won’t come until later; unfortunately, I have too many tales of woe regarding best friends and broken promises! Oh, and the little red-haired girl’s name? Later that night, Molly told me it was Sarah. SARAH. Molly forgot both of our names!

Cleaning Countdown

There’s nothing like an upcoming houseguest to make you realize how dirty your home is. We’re a fairly clean family; the dishes are done after every meal, the carpet has clean spots, and I sometimes throw cleanser in the toilet. All in all, I’d be comfortable having friends over for dinner, but not the Queen of England. When my German cousin asked if he could come visit after a business trip to Seattle, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. I hadn’t seen Joe in more than ten years! A decade ago, we were both unmarried and childless. Now here we are with mortgages, kids, and in my case, twenty pounds of baby weight that refuses to budge.

When I was younger, visits from our German family were lots of fun. My mother would flutter around the house for weeks beforehand, tidying, dusting, and organizing — sometimes unnecessarily. “Ma,” I asked her, “why’re you organizing your sock drawer?” Elbow deep in poly-cotton blends, my mom didn’t look up when she said, “you never know.” “I’m pretty sure you DO know,” I replied, “if your sister comes over from Germany and looks in your sock drawer, I’ll be very surprised.” Mom gave me a withering look and moved on to systemizing her pantyhose.

With time ticking down to Joe’s visit, I tackled the guest room. It should’ve been simple, but once again, nothing ever is. All the books that didn’t fit on the shelves had to go somewhere, and to make them fit in the closet my wedding dress was shuffled down to my two-year-old son’s closet (he doesn’t use it). Then I had to move parts of his unassembled racecar bed into my five-year-old daughter’s closet (she never goes in it) and my afternoon turned into one big Tetris game. Two hours later, the books were still on the guest room floor, but I’d reorganized the garage and found nine missing socks.

Many, many misadventures later, the house was finally ready. The toilets were clean, the shelves were dusted, and I’d even managed to wash the dog (much to his chagrin). My sock drawer was still unorganized, but I didn’t tell my mother. Finally, the day came, and Joe knocked on the door! After a flurry of hugs, tears, and bewildered looks from the kids, my husband Jeremy and I ushered Joe into the living room. “Wow, this place looks great!” Joe exclaimed, and I flushed with pride. “There’s just one thing,” I said, and Joe looked at me curiously, “don’t look in my sock drawer!”

An Unexpected Question

“Mommy, what happens to your head after you die?” Molly asked, as she hopped in the van after school. Why do kids ask the most impossible questions on the days I haven’t had my coffee? Just once I’d like to not be dumbfounded by my children’s imaginations. “What?” I muttered, as I crammed her backpack, coat, and various knick-knacks into the back seat. “Does your head turn to stone?” she followed, staring at me curiously. “Molly, why are you asking me this?” I queried, as I started up the van and trundled towards home. “Sasha says that Mr. Peterson died,” she tossed out nonchalantly. Talk about a bombshell! Of all the things I was unprepared for, I was not ready for a conversation about death. “I’m sure Sasha’s wrong, sweetie. If Mr. Peterson died, the school would’ve told me. He’s probably just on vacation.” With bated breath, I glanced at Molly in the mirror; thankfully, she accepted my answer and moved on to talking about flamingos.

I wasn’t so lucky the next day. “Sasha says she knows for sure that Mr. Peterson died,” Molly stated. “Her mom says for sure. What happens when you die?” Oh boy. Here I was, dealing with my five-year-old daughter’s existential crisis in a minivan that smelled like old French fries. How could I answer her question? How could I tell her that people have been wondering about death since the first human/fish/lizard blorped out of the primordial ooze and started walking on land? I don’t know, and quite frankly, death scares the beejeezus out of me, and always has.

Right around Molly’s age, when I was five, I became aware of death. Every night, without fail, I would lie in bed and terrify myself. The idea of someday not existing shook me to my core, and I would scramble out of bed, climb into my dad’s lap, and start sobbing (my dad later confessed that I was scream-crying directly into his ear, and that he went quite deaf on that side). My poor parents must have felt helpless; how do you comfort a child filled with mortal dread? Finally, as my mother put me to bed one night, she grabbed an oversized teddy bear from my bureau, thrust it into my arms, and said “here, this teddy will protect you.” I slept soundly through the night, and every night after that. That bear’s name is Frankie, and he sits proudly on my wardrobe today.

As we pulled into our driveway, Molly’s question gnawed at me. But how could I explain something I knew nothing about? After doing some research, and talking with my husband Jeremy, I broached the topic at dinner that night. “Molly, remember how you were asking about death? “’[Death is the end of living. When [you] die, your body stops working. You don’t need to eat, drink or breathe anymore. It’s not like sleeping; once someone dies, they’re dead forever and can’t come back. But when a person dies, a special part of them lives on in our hearts and our memories, to love and remember them after they’re gone]. ‘”* I watched her face carefully, and held my breath as Molly chewed. “But what happens to your head?” she finally asked. “Um, your head stays here. On Earth,” I replied nervously. Another thoughtful chew…… “okay,” Molly answered, then launched into a description of a goose she saw at school. Jeremy and I exchanged looks; had we done the right thing? Had we explained properly? Was she too young for this? For the millionth time, I cursed the vagaries of adulthood and longed to be a teenager again (no responsibilities, disposable income, waistline that didn’t resemble a cheese wheel).

Death is a whisper in the back of my mind, one that’s never truly silent; I have to fight the whisper from becoming a roar. It’s never easy. As I tucked Molly into bed that night, as she smiled and giggled, I realized yet again how amazing and wonderful it is to have my kids in my life. Every decision I’ve ever made has resulted in Molly and my son, Andy, sleeping peacefully in their beds and quietly dreaming. Life is a beautiful ache in my heart, and if I’m lucky, I’ll have many more years to wonder at its loveliness. Oh, and about Mr. Peterson, the “dead” man who started all of this? A quick phone call to Sasha’s mom confirmed that Mr. Peterson was alive and on vacation; he’d told Sasha’s mom he was “dead tired”. Talk about a fantastic miscommunication!

*Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation. (2016, September 5). How to Explain Death to Children. How to Explain Death to Children | CRHCF

A Simple Fix

It was supposed to be a quick, five-minute project. Our bathroom wall had a small gouge in it, so my husband Jeremy filled it in with spackle. A splash of paint would’ve finished the job; but life is never straightforward. Instead of a sedate train trip through a peaceful valley, life is a bee-filled roller coaster ride through acid-covered thornbushes. Oh, and the roller coaster is on fire. Turns out the cans of leftover paint in our garage had every colour except sage green, so the white blotch festered on the bathroom wall for months. Eventually, because I felt that our lives weren’t chaotic enough, we decided to fix the problem.

“Why don’t we hang a towel rack there?” I suggested. Sure, the towel would dangle in your lap when you used the toilet, but the wall would be covered! “Or we could put a sticker over it…. How do you feel about sparkly unicorns?” Jeremy gave me the stink eye, even after I suggested multiple stickers to create a “theme”. Finally, we realized there was nothing for it: we had to paint the bathroom.

I had fun the last time I painted. I was twelve and decided that my bedroom should be purple. Looking back, I realize that it seemed like fun because my dad moved all my heavy furniture out of the way, and I did absolutely zero prep work. I also had no idea how to paint properly, so my ceiling ended up pockmarked with lilac splotches, and, since I didn’t know about painter’s tape, my windowsill, closet door, and curtain rod all ended up equally besmirched. The blue carpet had a lovely, hard, crunchy line of paint all around its perimeter. My mother took one look at the finished product, raised her eyebrows, and walked out without a word. I’m willing to take half the blame for this failure, because, honestly, it looked like I used a hockey stick to paint while I was blindfolded and drunk. But on the other hand, who lets a twelve-year-old run wild with a gallon of lavender paint? My parents could’ve at least bought some drop cloths!

With that success in mind, I tackled the bathroom enthusiastically. It wasn’t long until I realized, once again, that adulthood is cripplingly tedious. After clearing out my toiletries, it became clear that even preparing to paint is annoying. The shower, countertop, and baseboards all had to have painters tape applied, but before that could be done, everything had to be dusted. The shocking amount of hair everywhere had to be vacuumed, the mirror had to be removed, and alllll the gouges in all the walls were spackled, sanded, and wiped. Of course, all this was done after the kids were in bed, when Jeremy and I felt super energetic. The first coat of white primer was applied, then the second, then the third. Finally, after eight days of work, we were ready for the actual paint.

“You know,” I said to Jeremy, “since we’re painting, we should update the towel rack. And the toilet paper holder.” “If you do that,” Jeremy replied, “you have to switch out the faucet, since all the fixtures match.” Paint roller in hand, I mused “well if we do that, we might as well update the sink, too. And the light fixture in here is ugly.” And that’s how a simple, five-minute job turned into a complete bathroom renovation. Every night since then has involved painting, hammering, measuring, and swearing.

Like a Volkswagen beetle struggling up a hill, the project is slowly, slowly coming together. The upstairs bathroom is a rat’s nest of debris, so this family of four is sharing the downstairs toilet. Don’t ask me how we shared one bathroom for so long in our old condo, because every morning now is a tangle of limbs, hairspray, empty toilet paper rolls, and yelling. Even the baby gets in on the action, insisting he needs to pee and then happily sitting on the potty for twenty minutes while chaos explodes. Thank goodness the dog doesn’t need the toilet, too! There’s an end in sight, though, and the lesson I’ve learned from weeks of hard work and paint-smeared fingers? Prep your surfaces, protect your carpets, and I’m never painting again!

The Key to (In)efficiency

Kids have this wonderful habit of making the easiest things super difficult. It takes me four seconds to go down our staircase; it takes my two-year-old son three minutes. You know why? Because instead of descending while standing upright, Andy sits on his butt and very carefully scoots forward, then teeters on the edge of the stair until he plops down onto the next one. Scoooooot, plop. Scooooooot, plop. God help me when he gets to the landing, because he inches along like an arthritic caterpillar. By the time we reach the first floor, I’ve forgotten why we came down in the first place! “No no NO! Walk normal!” I bark at him. “We’re in a hurry!” Of course, his speedy descent is no better; this one involves him leaping from five stairs up and smashing onto the floor, collapsing his knees into his chest. He either moves at the pace of a tired snail or an amped-up kangaroo, and I end up annoyed or terrified.

Sometimes even getting to the stairs is a problem. After dinner, Andy needs to go from his highchair down to his bedroom. Guess how long it takes him to walk eleven feet to the staircase? Answer: as long as possible. Lately, instead of walking, he gets on his hands and knees and hops around while squeaking “chipmunk! Chipmunk! Chipmunkchipmunkchipmunk!” Yes, this is completely adorable, and yes, it makes me smile – for the first thirty seconds. After that, I’m biting the insides of my cheeks to keep from screeching!

And what kid has ever brushed their teeth efficiently? After the Sisyphean task of herding five-year-old Molly into the bathroom, her nighttime routine would test the patience of a saint. From her mysterious disappearing toothbrush, to the “one last drink!” of water, my tolerance crumbles like a cracker. “I want to stay with youuuu,” she whines as I (finally) tuck her into bed. “I want to stay up like a grown-up!” Let me burst your bubble on this one, kid. After you go to bed, nothing interesting happens. Jeremy (my husband) and I stumble to the couch and watch TV for two hours until one of us falls asleep. Then we brush our teeth and pass out in bed; it’s a glamorous life, but we’re humble about it!

There’s no sugarcoating this one. Kids will be kids, and that means they’ll be annoyingly, amazingly inefficient. They’re feathers in the wind and I’m a brick in a rock garden. Together we’ll stumble along, perpetually late and with mismatched shoes. But oh, what a wonderful ride it’ll be!

Money Saving Tips from a Dunce

“Mommy, what’s this?” five-year-old Molly asked, pointing to a tangled lump of thread on her knee.

“I mended the hole in your pants,” I replied.

“It looks funny,” she said.

“Yeah, I don’t know how to sew.” Thus ended another chapter in my latest money-saving endeavor. Being a stay-at-home mom means finding clever ways to save pennies wherever possible, and in my six years of domesticity, I’ve realized I’m terrible at it. Almost all my efforts result in wasted time, frustration, and precious dollars going down the drain. Take Molly’s pants, for example. She had torn a hole in the knee, so I decided to fix it. How hard could it be? The answer: very. After stabbing my finger with the sewing needle, then blinding myself trying to thread it, I was cranky and in pain. Despite trying my hardest, my patch job looked like I had sewn it in the dark and upside down. I was unimpressed, and so was Molly; she refused to wear the pants. So despite my efforts, I ended up buying her brand new jeans. In this modern day and age, how can I not know how to sew? Did I take that sewing class for nothing? To be fair, it was twenty years ago in high school, and the cute boy in my class was more interesting than learning to drop-stitch.

Here’s another money-saving tip: scrape leftover food into plastic containers. The next day, reheat the leftovers and serve them for dinner. Listen as your two-year-old declares them “gwoss”, and your daughter announces they taste like feet. Sigh loudly and heat up a frozen pizza in the oven. Leave the leftovers in the fridge until the mold growing on them becomes sentient, then toss the entire container in the garbage. Isn’t it great being economical?

My mother was a wonder at mending, cooking, and thriftiness. She would sew beautiful heart shaped patches onto my jeans, making them last another season. I remember when I was around five and had yet another hole in the knee of my tights. Mom got a needle and thread, and despite my protests that she would “stitch my knee shut!” she patched the hole in no time flat, while I was wearing the tights! (Maybe it was easier that way?) Mom could turn leftover chicken into a delicious stroganoff sauce, or into a casserole that I still remember fondly. She would turn the heat down at night, so every winter morning was bitingly cold. This routine may have saved money, but I wasn’t a big fan!

I’ll keep trying. It’s important for kids to learn the value of a dollar. In today’s throw-away society, it’s so easy to just mindlessly replace what’s broken. If I knew as a child what I know now, I’d understand why my mother sighed with dismay at my torn pants and tattered socks. Now she simply chuckles when I complain about burst seams and dangling threads. She pats my hand reassuringly, a knowing smirk on her face. If only I could go back in time and pay attention, maybe I’d be better at sewing, saving money, and life in general!

The Glory Days

Remember when weekends used to be fun? Two days and two nights of no work or school, and you only had to choose which party to attend? You could go to dinner with friends, see a movie, or maybe hang out at the beach. Whatever you did, you had 48 glorious hours of freedom before the crushing reality of routine brought you back down. If I had only known……

As a stay-at-home mom, my weekends are an exhausting marathon of diapers, whining, cajoling, and frustration. Molly, my five-year-old, is juuuuust old enough to not do anything insanely stupid. She can get her own snacks, turn the TV on, and use marker pens on paper instead of the dining room walls. On the other hand, my two-year-old son Andy can’t make it through a day without a catastrophe. Whether he’s backing blindly into doorframes, tripping and falling eyeball first, or climbing the kitchen counters like King Kong, he always, always ends the day with a new bruise or scrape. His favorite expression lately is “I’m not!”, because every sentence out of my mouth is “don’t do that!” Today, I caught him elbow deep in the pantry, rummaging around. “Don’t take any snacks out!” I warned him. “I’m not!” he retorted, chubby hands full of granola bars and crackers. “Don’t make a mess in the living room!” I cautioned. “I’m NOT!” he answered, as he tipped out a 24 pack of crayons onto the floor. It’d be easier to just have the phrases “don’t do that! Stop it! Clean that up!” playing on an endless loop throughout the house.

This weekend was unusually bright and sunny, so my husband Jeremy and I tried to do some yardwork. Again, the word here is tried. All I wanted to do was dig a hole and put a plant in it.

The Hunter Family’s Guide to Gardening

Step 1: All four family members have jackets on and the correct number of shoes. Some of the shoes are even on the right feet.

Step 2: Exit the house. The baby hears a police siren and beelines it towards the street. Cue both parents screaming and chasing him. Baby protests loudly and starts crying. We’re off to a good start.

Step 3: Where is the shovel? Look in the garage, shed, and laundry room. Shovel is found in the kids’ playhouse, where a fight ensues because Molly was using it as her “witch’s broom”.

Step 4: Dig a small hole. Abandon hole because the dog chases the neighbor’s cat up a tree. Retrieve dog and put him back inside the house, where he barks indignantly.

Step 5: Where is the #@$%&*^** shovel? The baby’s crammed the shovel under the wagon for some reason. Collect shovel and remonstrate the baby, who scowls furiously and retreats to the playhouse to pout.

Steps 6 to 17: Spend the next two hours breaking up fights, screaming at kids to share, fetching water from the house, changing diapers, wiping noses, putting bike helmets on and taking them off, retrieving children from underneath tipped over bikes/scooters/wheelbarrows, and disinfecting scrapes and cuts. The house is now filthy from dirty shoes tromping in and out. The potted plant has withered and died. The shovel is nowhere to be found. Give up and drink reheated coffee. Only seven hours until bedtime.

Life is anything but boring with two kids and an endless list of chores. Between the constant bickering, cooking, and cleaning, it’s a miracle anything gets done. I may be down, but I’m not out, and I have a plan: one day, my kids will be old enough to cook, clean, and do yardwork, and guess who’ll be laughing then? Yours truly will be relaxing on the couch while my two darlings earn their keep! In only ten short years, my weekends will once again be for fun. If I live that long!

Loose Toof

“Mommy, my toof hurts,” five-year-old Molly whined at the dinner table. “It hurts when I eat. I think ice-cream will make it feel better”. Nice try, kid. A quick check in her mouth confirmed that, yep! Molly had her first loose tooth! The central on her bottom gum wiggled slightly back and forth, wobbling more and more with each probe of Molly’s fingers. “Will the toof fairy come and give me money?” she asked excitedly. My back started to sweat at this question; there’s a fine line between encouraging childhood fables and outright lying. “Um, yep, that’s right,” I mumbled. “I can’t wait for my money!” Molly chattered, her face glowing with happiness.

Molly’s loose tooth brought back a wave of memories. I distinctly remember my first loose tooth: I bit into a carrot, and one of my bottom teeth popped slightly out of its socket. Confused, I showed my parents — had I broken my mouth? They reassured me that no, my mouth was fine; losing baby teeth was part of growing up. I also vividly remember the painful ripping of my teeth out of their sockets (shudder). A sharp burst of pain as tooth and gum separated, followed by the coppery taste of blood. My tongue would probe the tender flesh around the wound, until eventually the new tooth would pierce the surface of the gumline. Holy dastardly dentist, am I glad I don’t have to go through that again!

Despite her protests, Molly’s tooth had to come out at some point. A quick twist was all it took, since she had been wiggling the thing nonstop, including with her mouth full of meatloaf at the dinner table. “Now I oot it unner my piwwow, wight?” Molly asked, her mouth full of gauze to staunch the bleeding. “That’s right, kiddo!” I chirped, trying not to swoon at the sight my child’s weeping wound. Eventually, Molly was persuaded to get in bed and go to sleep, since the tooth fairy only comes when kids are unconscious. Lo and behold, under the cloak of darkness, the exalted fairy herself showed up! She stumbled into Molly’s room at three AM, eyes unfocused and hair on end, moving as quietly as her protesting joints would allow. Naturally, she stepped on every creaky floorboard and pointy toy possible, causing her heart to pound when Molly shifted position. Stealthily, with the grace of a drunk donkey, the precious tooth was retrieved from under Molly’s pillow, and a shiny toonie (a Canadian two dollar coin) took its place. Satisfied, the tooth fairy retreated to her warm bed, but not before groggily bashing her knee on a bookshelf.

Molly burst into our bedroom at stupid o’clock. “She came! The toof fairy was here! Look, I got a coin!” Molly babbled brightly. The tooth fairy was cranky from lack of sleep but tried to make an effort. “That’s great, sweetie. Why don’t you go back to bed. Right now.” I mumbled. “How about you show me while we have breakfast?” my husband Jeremy asked, flinging back the covers. As the two of them sauntered out the door, with Molly chattering away, I silently thanked the tooth fairy that visited me when I was a child, thirty-two years ago. Once again, I marvel at what we do to make our kids happy; we’re tooth fairies, Easter bunnies, Cupids, and Santas all in one. Like my parents before me, I’ll sacrifice sleep to put a smile on my kids’ faces – but don’t ask me to do it too often!

A World of Their Own

Isn’t it lovely how kids use their imaginations? They’re so unencumbered, so free of embarrassment and self-doubt. Molly, my five-year-old, built three different musical instruments out of Mega Blocks today. “This one is a chimer,” she told me proudly, “this one is ring-bell, and this one is a banjo.” She busied herself all morning until everything was just right, then loudly played an entire symphony, smashing the blocks with a cardboard tube. The headache I got from her concert was almost worth it. Andy, my two-year-old, is just as full of wonder and curiosity. Though he doesn’t have the vocabulary yet, I can see him observing and experiencing life. “I hide,” he said yesterday, “you count, okay?” He scampered into the living room, giggling loudly. “Where’s Aaaandy?” I asked aloud (standing in plain view, with his hands over his eyes). “Where did he go?” I questioned, looking behind curtains and couches. “Found you!” he screamed, rushing out of the room, and laughing. I guess we need to review the rules of hide-and-seek!

Kids are alive with creativity and wonder. As a child, I wandered around with my head in the clouds. I was full of ideas and stories, most of which involved me saving Earth from destruction. Somehow, out of billions of people, I was the only eight-year-old capable of getting the job done. The details were fuzzy, but the result was the planet was saved, people were happy, and I was rewarded with a puppy. Parades were thrown in my honour, and crowds wept with joy at the sight of me. “That’s her!” they would say, “the girl who saved the world with only a calculator and an Etch-a-Sketch!” I started writing my ideas down, filling journals and notebooks with award-winning novels and poems. The literary world wouldn’t know what hit it! Of course, looking back, the stories are all dumpster fires, never to see the light of day. Of all the things I left behind in childhood, my imagination wasn’t one of them – I use it every day. Sometimes I’m fighting a group of ninjas in the grocery store, sometimes I’m wearing a dinosaur costume and dancing on the sidewalk. Images and ideas float through me, and I still keep journals to write down the best ones.

The funniest part of imagining with my kids is when I imagine things wrong. I grabbed Molly’s “banjo” and started smashing out a tune; we were both going to rock out! “Mommy,” she sighed, “you have it upside down.” Well, excuse me! Andy is equally militant and always ready to correct me. We were playing Hot Wheels yesterday, and he held up a little green truck. “Look, mommy, a bus!” he said, holding it like a delicate butterfly. “That’s actually a truck, kiddo,” I replied. “No,” he retorted, “it’s a buussssssssss.” I kept my mouth shut on that one.

I love imagining with my kids. Whether we’re animals in a zoo or musicians in a band, we’re having fun together and making memories. I’m excited to hear about their adventures and dreams. It’s hard breaking the reverie and going back to being their mom. I don’t want to clean the kitchen; I want to fly like a hummingbird! Why should I fold the laundry, when I can pretend I’m Queen Sarah and they’re my jesters? The worlds we imagine are a million times more fun than the real one. At this rate, the three of us will end up in the same place: with our heads in the clouds!

Bike Rides and Bruised Egos

“Okay, dad, I’m ready. You can take my training wheels off now!” five-year-old Molly chirped brightly. She grinned at my husband Jeremy and me, her cheeks pink, her coat splattered with mud. If only I had my kids’ bulletproof confidence! As Jeremy went in search of tools, I made a mental checklist of first aid supplies to deal with Molly’s inevitable scrapes and bruises. Learning to ride a bike was an all-day task, filled with ping-ponging emotions and damaged egos, and I should know!

My own foray into bike-riding was inauspicious. My dad led me into an all concrete parking lot, with the hot summer sun beating down. I wasn’t wearing sunscreen and possibly not even a helmet – hey, it was the nineties! Dad gripped the back of my bike seat tightly, and I pushed the pedals, wobbling unsteadily. Suddenly, he let go of the seat and I was riding by myself! “DOHNLOOBECK!” my dad yelled. “What??” I screamed, as I headed down a slight hill, picking up speed. “DON’T LOOK BACK!” he yelled. Of course, I looked back, and saw him sprinting towards me, a look of fear in his eyes.

I woke up in the hospital. My mom, sister, and dad were all clustered around me as I lay on a stretcher. Apparently, I had used my face as an emergency brake, slamming into a concrete curb. I’m sure I didn’t “fall into a coma” (as I told my classmates later), but I did lose consciousness. My entire upper lip scabbed over, and to this day I have a scar under my nose. So yes, my bike riding lesson went well! After the trauma subsided and my face healed, I became more determined than ever to ride my bike. For three days, I fell, crashed, and careened wildly on that two-wheeled demon until finally, FINALLY, I rode a wonky loop around the yard. I had tamed the beast! And all it cost me was grievous bodily harm!

So, I prepared myself for the worst when Jeremy took Molly’s training wheels off. She was so excited, and I held my breath as Jeremy steadied her on the bike. She pushed off fearlessly, rode three feet, and toppled over onto the grass. “That was awesome, honey! What a great first try,” I cheered. “Yeah,” Molly puffed, “but I can do better.” She got up, dusted herself off, and tried again. Imagine my astonishment when, within twenty minutes, she was steering and braking like a pro. I’ve got to stop underestimating my kids!

Is this the same little girl I carried in a bundle in my arms? The same little girl I pushed in a stroller? Who is this fearless, courageous kid zooming around the yard like a daredevil? “Come on, mom!” Molly calls out. “Let’s go for a ride!” As I climb onto my bike and clip on my helmet, a thought crosses my mind: this time I’ll use my brakes to stop, instead of my face!