When my kids were born, I mostly gave up mountain biking. Mountain biking, on a good day, is fantastic fun. Exhilarating, adrenaline building, heart thumping fun. For me, it is also risky. The days when I come home without scrapes, scratches are bruises are unique. As one of my girlfriends puts it, “With mountain biking, you can pretty much always dial in a fall.” True, but I don’t like to think about it.
Who Will Feed The Kids?
With little, hugely dependent offspring at home, I became risk averse. I didn’t want to even think about a broken clavicle or leg. Who would feed the kids? Who would get them off to school? My husband would, of course, rise to the occasion and help out, but while I had to make sure food got into their mouths, he had to provide the food. My job was to stay healthy and uninjured.
As the boys have gotten older, I’ve been able to let some of this pressure go. If I get hurt, they can make dinner. They can do the laundry, they can get themselves to bed. They are as independently functioning as I am.
The Family Mountain Bike Vacation
This past November we were in Sedona, Arizona with the express purpose of mountain biking, and mountain biking a lot. On day one, I rolled my bike over and my ankle with it. I’ve sprained this same ankle numerous times, and I should know to ride with a brace. But I don’t. After my fall, I sat on the ground and wailed. Partly from pain, partly from shock, and mostly from sadness. I was mourning — mourning the injury, mourning the end of the ride in such a stupid manner and mourning what I feared would be the end of riding with my family for the week. We’d been having such a good time! I was crushed.
I also had to get back to the car and I couldn’t walk. I could ride however, and I had no choice. Once I got back to the car, I let all the emotions and pain take over again. I wailed some more. When we got back to the condo, my husband took excellent care of me, getting me ice, making sure I elevated my leg, feeding me ibuprofen. My younger son helped and made comforting, empathetic comments. My older son glared at me.
The next day, the swelling had gone down, but I still couldn’t walk. No mountain biking. My outlook was better and I had, at least, exchanged my tears for a smile. I asked my older son why he was angry. “I’ve had a sprained ankle before,” he replied. “It wasn’t that bad. There was no reason for you to wail like that. I didn’t like it. You sounded like Fred” (my brother’s basset hound, not a nice comparison).
I wasn’t sure what to make of this. Was he simply an annoyed and embarrassed teenager? Was he worried or frightened? I decided not to ask. I had reacted in my way and he in his. He probably wouldn’t understand if I explained to him that my disappointment was as great as my pain. While all of this was going through my mind, he smiled at me and said, “I have to describe you in Spanish for a class project. I was going to call you ‘strong.’ But now I think I’ll change that to ‘weak.’ You’re kind of a wimpy mom.”
It’s Okay. Mom’s In Charge.
For all of his life, I’ve been in control, the at-home quarterback. When others are sick or hurt, I tend to them. Rarely am I the one needing tending. He wasn’t sure what to make of me being hurt. After one solid day of rest and immobility, I got back on my bike and took an easy ride. My ankle was still fat, purple and painful, but I wrapped it and got back out there. I didn’t have anything to prove. I wasn’t trying to show my son that I am actually strong and not weak, for I know all to well that I am both strong and weak. He’s right.
No, I got out there because the weather was perfect, the scenery incredible. I got back onto my bike for some easy and cautious riding. And I had fun. And when he saw me riding, wrapped ankle, pronounced limp and all, I was redeemed. With my wimpiness behind us, my son gave me a fist bump of admiration. The next day he and his dad gave me a new name, OTM, One Tough Mother.
I guess that’s me.
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