I rolled our bikes out of the garage and hoisted them singlehandedly into the back of the Suburban. I’d had quite enough of feeling powerless over parenting my oldest and hoped a joint bike ride would give us a breather and time away, together.
Toots had exhausted herself the night before and this morning with raging and crying and threatening. I’d remained calm, barely, as I bumbled my way through knowing what to say, “Your behavior is destructive to this family,” “We need to find a way for you to deal with negative emotions more effectively,” and “I’ll talk to you when you’re done screaming.” But instead of nodding, she burst through the fragile ribbons of responses and raged an hour or more. I wondered if I could hold on to the barest tether of restraint and then Toots, spent, said, “I’m sorry. How long am I supposed to stay in my room?”
I don’t always see what pushes her over the edge. If I did, I’d grab hold of something and pull us both back. I also don’t recognize when she draws herself back – that fleetingest second before she stands in front of me exhausted and ready to stop fighting. Both take me completely by surprise.
It was in that frame of mind that I gathered our bikes. I was quite through with lectures and teaching and not knowing anymore. Of thinking I’ve somehow made a person who is extreme and sensitive and unaccountable. Did I do this? Am I too strict? Too loose? Too unparental?
We began the bike ride in silence, like after a war, and just pedaled. The path circled around a lake and I’d hoped the naturalness of it all would claim us into its fold and give perspective: we are dots, we are dots, we are dots.
We kept riding and then the mile markers popped up – 1 mile; 1 1/4 mile, 2 miles, 3. I pointed to each numbered wooden stake, and looked for the next. I could make it to the next. We could make it to the next.
Sometimes we stopped. Toots grew tired or we needed a water break or a rock got in the way, nearly throwing her from the bike. At one point, one manic bike racer stood me down and kept coming straight at me, refusing to veer to the right or left until I freaked out and and my feet flew off the pedals to stop my bike before he rammed into me. At the very last second, he circled around my immobile bike. I was furious. There was no reason for his unsafe behavior. I told Toots to watch for “people like that” and she told me he probably didn’t know I was there or didn’t mean it or was trying to be funny.
So we kept going.
Mile marker to mile marker.
This is something I’m trying: blog “just one paragraph” a day for 30 days.”