Saturday, March 05, 2011

Our Dark Little Secret

Here's a post I wrote a couple of years ago for the LA Moms Blog. Yeah, it's old material, but try to think of it as 'revisiting previous thoughts' instead of 'recycling old crap.'

We went on a vacation recently, and two of the best days were ones where my husband and I took our daughters, 11 and 13, biking along the Truckee river in Lake Tahoe. This was the culmination of a dream of ours – not the river ride itself, but the very act of biking. Yes, you heard me right – my kids have been on this planet over a decade and just recently learned how to ride bikes. But I've decided to come clean and now I’m all about disclosure – next I’ll be telling you about my third nipple.

It really was our dark little secret. While we watched other kids riding around on their fancy two-wheelers, we could only stand by helplessly and say to ourselves, "Why not us?" It wasn’t for a lack of trying – we’d attempted to get our girls to ride numerous times but they rejected the Schwinns in favor of Razors or rollerblades. And our plan to convince the neighbors that training wheels were the new, retro, 'in' thing like bell bottoms or turntables? Totally not working.

Even humiliation wouldn't motivate them - when we encountered a pre-schooler who yelled to my older daughter that he would “teach you how to ride a bike if you want," as he whizzed by on his two-wheeler, she felt stung but still showed no interest. When she had to stop me from yelling after him spitefully, "At least she doesn't still crap her pants," I knew the situation was getting the best of me.

But I did find out I wasn't alone. Earlier this summer I was having dinner with a few other moms and after a couple of martinis I blurted out that my girls didn't know how to ride bikes. The outpouring of support I received! After we had all gathered in a big group hug and stopped crying a few of the other moms admitted that - gasp - their kids weren't bikers, either. We all found we had the same reasons for our deficiency - lack of time, lack of interest on our kids' part, lack of a pair of hot cycling shoes featuring this season's metallic. In our solidarity we all felt a great burden had been lifted, and ordered another round of martinis vowing to get right on that bicycle riding thingamajig.

But what finally broke the camel's back was what my younger daughter repeated to my husband after coming home from a birthday party a couple of weeks later. When one of the other dads found out that she lacked the cycling skills to play a round of balloon polo, he remarked to her, "What? Didn't your DAD ever teach you how to ride a bike?"

The reaction on the homefront was swift and decisive. Within hours of hearing that remark my husband had bikes at the ready, helmets cleaned and polished, a bottle of Advil discreetly tucked into his pocket and the car pointed at the nearest wide-open parking lot. With the take-charge I saw that day I have to admit I secretly wished that dad at the party had questioned my daughter as to why her family didn't have a beachfront condo on Maui.

When they drove away I wasn't optimistic. I stayed by the phone, expecting an exasperated phone call from my husband, a call from the local ER or a text from one of my daughters asking why daddy was banging his head on the pavement and crying. But lo and behold - just sixty short minutes later I picked up the phone to hear the calm voice of my husband saying, "We have two bike riders here." I hadn't felt that much relief since my 13-year-old told me she thought all the boys at her school were immature and smelled like dirt.

And we've been riding ever since. My younger daughter prefers speed and the challenge of an uphill climb, while my teenager prefers a slower pace and dreams of a way to mount her iPod and a photo of Chace Crawford on her handlebars. We've taken rides around the neighborhood, on our local bike paths, around the island of Catalina and our recent ride along the river. And any way we do it is fine - I'm just thrilled to be riding together as a family, and to emerge from the shadows of our dark secret. By the way, I was kidding about that third nipple but now that I'm sharing let me tell you how long it's been since I cleaned my refrigerator...

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