Monday, June 7, 2010

Balancing Act

Motherhood is always a balancing act.

Life lessons usually present themselves to me in humorous visuals. And if a little embarrassment is used, the picture lasts even longer.

I was pregnant with my third child when my oldest entered Kindergarten. She had learned to ride her bike the summer before and was determined to ride it to school. The school was a few blocks away, but there was enough traffic that I didn't want her to ride alone. So I did what any Roaring Mom would do. I balanced my big ol' baby belly on that ten-speed (Sophie strapped into the toddler seat on the back) and accompanied my daughter to school and back every day up until one week before the baby came.

When I think back on what I must've looked like, I completely understand the snickers and stares that used to greet us. But when I consider what I balanced every day, I'm kind of proud. Not only was I physically balancing that distorted body, and a toddler, and her baby doll she wouldn't leave behind, but I was also emotionally balancing some other pretty important stuff.

First, we had Kate's desire to utilize her new skill. We had Sophie's desire to bring along her "baby". We had my desire to ensure Kate's physical safety to and from school. We also had, as always, my unending desire to make sure that they have their desires fulfilled. In reality, it might not have been the safest choice to put my pregnant body on the bike. But when you are in that third trimester, you feel pretty invincible. Or if not invincible, at least so irrationally pigheaded to do whatever the hell you want to do that you don't necessarily listen to reason, right?

With teens, maintaining equilibrium in providing for their physical needs and attending to their emotional ones only becomes more challenging. And isn't it interesting that just as they reach those teen years is just about the same time we realize that we've be neglecting another part of the balancing act--our own needs. No wonder those teen roads are so rough. We take off their training wheels and at the same time realize we may have forgotten how to navigate our own ten-speed.

Even when Kate was older, we still enjoyed riding bikes together. On one outing, I urged her to go ahead of me and lead the way. As she passed, her tire got caught in the groove between the grass and the sidewalk. The bike and Kate toppled on the path in front of me. I was going too fast to stop. I tried to swerve to the left, but I wouldn't make it all the way around the bike and I would have crashed on top of her. I couldn't swerve to the right or my wheels would have rolled over her neck or head. I panicked. I froze. I rode right over my daughter's back. A horrid scream caught in my throat.

When I jumped off my bike and ran to her, she was laughing. She was fine. No severed neck, no bruises, not even a scrape. Only a couple of tread marks on the back of her t-shirt. I was shaking so badly I could barely push my bike, let alone try to get back on. A witnesses stopped his car and asked if we needed help. Kate laughed louder, "I think she does. I'm fine."

We still laugh about that day. And Kate still milks it whenever she can. "Well, Mom, you did try to assassinate my with your bicycle."

I can't help thinking of that visual life lesson as I prepare my oldest for the next phase in her life. It's challenging enough to keep the wheel on the high wire when I am the only one steering. Letting her take the lead will be tricky. What if I've misdirected her? What if I've not prepared her for cracks and bumps and pot holes? What if I can't stop mothering and I run over her again?

If only I could strap on the helmets, air up the tires and choose an unencumbered path. If I only I could guarantee her a smooth and safe journey. But the training wheels were off a long time ago. I couldn't get her to wear a helmet if I super-glued it to her head. And as for the path...she's always chosen her own.

I guess the adjustment is now mine to make. I'm still creating balance. I'm a mom. So I guess I always will.

Recently I've been considering the never-ceasing balancing act all mothers perform. No matter what path you are on--working moms, stay-at-home moms, married moms, single moms, remarried moms are all required to find, create, and maintain balance and harmony. We're not alone on this wonderful, precarious, precious ride. So for the next few weeks I hope you'll join in the discussion. Leave your comment concerning your tricks for maintaining balance,or e-mail me privately. Can't wait to hear from you. Surely, I'm not the only Roaring Mom who's run over her own child in an attempt to balance the teen's need for space with the mom's need to stay too close.

Or does stuff like that really happen only to me?

No comments:

Post a Comment