A few weeks ago my first-born baby started riding her bike. Tonight as I walked behind her as she rode on the sidewalk, unassisted, I felt for all the world as if my heart itself was riding off into the mad, dark world. A world where two selfish, wicked people chose to mar a marathon with bombs. A world where a plant exploding destroyed a town and took along victims in a mushroom-cloud plume. Into that world goes my tiny child, now mobile. And. I can't protect her from everything.
So I step outside to let her ride her bike. I breathe in the air, and at the time Boston was still under lockdown and I think about a girl I went to college with whose facebook page I keep checking. She says she's ok, and on the safer part of the city, but still she couldn't go outside because the world itself had gone plum mad. As my daughter staggers a little, teetering off the bike and down into the ground I hold my breath.
Once she's up again and her little brother keeps running out in front of her and getting in her way I go inside to deposit the boy with his father. I say in passing that we need to stock up food and water in case we have to shelter in place. He gives me the 'yes dear' look and out I go.
She's circling over and over to ramp up to the sidewalk which has been her nemesis lately. It's the blasted tilted driveways you see. They get her every time. I mentioned just before we started this second round that we should pray for a city called Boston. She tilts her head to the side and asks me why. There is a bad guy there, I say, and he is scaring people. It was the first time I told her about it. We don't watch the news in front of them so how could they even know there is a town called West and a city called Boston if we don't tell them. And what on Earth to tell them.
Off she rides again. Content for us to have said our prayer. She assures me the police will catch the bad guy and I nod. Where the sidewalk meets the grass is the hang-up now and I resist the urge to catch her. Wincing I watch her hold out her hand to steady herself, to a wooden fence, and I do my best not to grimace when I check for splinters. Somewhere there is a bus full of police officers ready to do battle and I'm worried over splinters.
As we return home and she gets going a bit and rounds the big curb with some gusto it feels for all the world like my heart is cresting that curve and my soul itself feels the wind on my face. How can I ever let her go?
The what ifs are the kickers. My mind has been racing with them lately. An eight-year-old boy isn't hard to imagine when you have a six-year-old daughter. Now that sweet boy is gone. How. Can. I. Let. Her. Go?
After watching her attempt to stop by putting her legs down on the ground and now I try to teach her to use the brakes. The stupid heart-shaped pedals slide out from underneath her feet with ease but I patiently explain that if she turn them the other direction, backward, she can stop instead of go.
How can I let her go? How about I don't! But how about I let her face what she needs to face when she needs to face it. And be there by her side for the hard things. For today, it's splinters.
Later that night she fell down trying to climb the tree and scraped up her arm. At first I thought she had landed on her arm and it might have been broken but a scrape and a bruise was all that was left from that battle with nature. She may indeed break her arm one day. And she may live her whole life with no broken bones. Who knows. How about I don't!
I do know that I love her and my boy like crazy and (don't tell the kids) their father even more. And that it doesn't work for me to put their sweet faces into these awful stories. So. How about I don't.
I will pray for Boston. And West. And whatever doomed town or city is on the news next week. But I will also help my kindergartner round the big curb with ease. I assured my son that I would teach him to ride as well. I watch Ratatouille with them and then fail miserably at cooking. I make a cup of tea, write a little, and then go to bed. My heart is still in my chest. It's just stretched a little from its exhilarating bike ride. I hope it never needs to be big enough to deal with a true disaster when it comes to them, for what mother ever wants to think about their children hurting or dying, but I know my heart will be big enough for whatever comes. For today it was big enough for a bike ride.
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