Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ride at Your Own Peril and Make Mine a Double

So it’s bike rodeo week at Emie’s school. One might assume this means that the kids are encouraged to ride their bikes to school on a given day. Not true. The kids are definitely encouraged to bring their bikes in the backs of their parents’ SUVs. Goes against all things green but note that this is a rule to preserve life. The roads are busy and there are more bikes than there are people in some small towns, which makes bike parking impossible. So the parents are given the opportunity to schlep said youngster's bike to the school the night before the rodeo. This eliminates a new traffic jam in the middle of the normal morning traffic jam that is the nightmare of kiddo drop-off without the help of a rodeo.

If you’re still reading at this point , thanks for that. I know this is edge of your seat material here. But it’s just the day to day for me. Don’t be jealous of my cosmopolitan lifestyle, it's just how we roll. Anyway, I was on bike delivery duty tonight since Dirk’s in California on “business.” I like to use quotes for that just for fun. In any case I heaved the bike into the back of the car and the handlebars did a fast spinning twistaroo resulting in a big slap in my face. Like the “I see stars now" kind of slap. Ouch. The seat of the bike also did a little twist but I didn’t think a lot of it since it didn’t hit me in the face. We backed out of the driveway without incident. Congratulations, Mario Andretti, you say but what you don’t realize is that this alone is no small feat. Our garage is narrow like eye of the needle narrow and few are those who find it. Or at least few are those who back out of it without either hitting the side where the door goes down or shaving little pieces of brick off of the little retaining wall outside. Not that I’d know anything about either of those things. I have no idea how any paint or brick shavings got near my car. It’s either that someone pulled the ultimate prank and set the whole thing up or I was running late to take Ainsley to school and wailed into both the side of the garage and the little brick wall one day last week. I really can’t remember which it was. But the good news is that the paint scrape was superficial, it was only the rubber molding around the door that I drove into, and the retaining wall rollover did no damage to the tire. I knew you were worried.

So anyway we make it to the school to find plenty of Bike Rodeo volunteers in place ready to greet us. I’m telling you one has to get up pretty early to get ahead of these PTO ladies. They are running the show (or the rodeo) as the case may be. I tried to volunteer to be a chaperon for Emie’s field trip today and was told that they had all of the volunteers they needed (thankyouverymuch) within a few hours of announcing their need. That it was only a first-come first-served opportunity. Where am I? Since when is herding 22 seven year olds through a museum display of naked Egyptian statues an opportunity afforded to but a few lucky ones? Anyway back to the rodeo. So as I get the bike out of the car I note that the handlebars have left a nice red welt across the side of my cheek. The seat seemed kind of wiggly as I sat it down for Emie to walk into the gym but I didn’t suppose there was a lot to be done about it and carried on.

I forgot my glasses since I was wearing my prescription sunnies so I just walked into the gym wearing sunglasses. I was told that Emie could choose to either take a spin on the rodeo course (to become familiar with it) or park her bike in the gym next to her teacher’s name and take off. I knew what I wanted which involved turning right around to go home again. But of course in no time we were out on the course watching Emie kill some figure eights with her sparkly bike. But I should note that before she even got on the bike I noted that indeed her seat was kind of loose. Like pretty wobbly loose and probably not rodeo-worthy. After all part of the deal is some bike safety king is coming to not only check out her figure eight prowess but assess whether her happy two-wheeler should even be on the road. I wondered aloud (to no one in particular) that I should probably work on that seat. Mr. Helpful (pretty sure he would introduce himself this way) chirped right up. “Is it an Allen wrench or a standard you need for that seat?” Well, mind you, the bike is now 500 plus yards away from me being ridden with pure joy by my eldest. And it just so happens that I haven’t memorized which type of hardware is used on the underside of the bike seat. “Oh, I’m not sure,” I said. Adding with a smile what I thought would be a lighthearted comment, “That’s my husband’s department.”

Well apparently I just flung the door open for Mr. Helpful to let fly all over my little uniformed self. Here I was, welt on my face in dark glasses and maybe he’d decided I’d been put in a corner and needed a scolding for not taking better care of myself. So he proceeds to go off. I mean blow down the door go off type of go off. “You know you really need to know whether it’s an Allen wrench or not. Too many women just don’t know things they should know. Women need to know things. My wife told me one day she wanted to go back to work. I told her I was all for it because if something were to happen to me I’d want her to be able to provide for herself and our children. Women should work. Some women who, you know, stay home and out of the workforce, well – it’s not always the best decision. I’m for strong women. I mean, hey, heaven forbid it (as he leans in closer) but something very bad could happen to your husband. You know, the unthinkable and then where would you be? It could really happen like any day. What would you have?”

OM freaking goodness, sir. Mama almost lost her temper and went postal on Mr. Helpful. He doesn’t know me. He doesn't know how much strength in self-control it took for me not to kick his little Heineken all over that schoolyard. Doesn’t know a thing about me, my ability to identify household tools, hold a job, or support my family. I wanted to tell him that I’m a brain surgeon, and own three hospitals, that we have more money than Oprah, oh, and I’m wicked amazing with tools (including the Allen wrench which is also called a hex key) Mr. Iknowmorethananyone. And if hubs does go missing on his fake work travels we're so well insured that I could live large for eons and still have money to burn just for fun. But instead of saying any of those things (that only came to me when I was driving back home) I said this, “I know about tools. I can put in a new toilet.” There! That showed him. Take that Mr. Not Helpful! I just didn't like that he had summed my whole life (and future) up for me solely based on my Allen wrench ignorance.

Besides all of that it was already after school madness time or what I like to call (as I wish on a star), "Martini Hour". I was already doing the parent gig alone on day three with husband on his pretend business trip. But now I know he's really walking a tightrope over a pit of unfed tigers and vipers and he's just lost his balance. But Mr. Helpful (had he considered this) would only have felt his point was underlined all the more by this information proving that indeed I cannot handle life alone.

It’s a strange night to be sure. I don’t get mad very often. I mean my fuse is long (and no, I don’t know what kind of fuse it is) but it’s a long one. And it’s all very interesting timing as I’ve been learning so much lately about just resting in confidence in my God-given identity. To remember that what anyone thinks about me is none of my concern. That I cannot control their opinion nor does it define me anyway. So I guess receiving the equivalent of a spanking from a stranger just hit me in the wrong spot. Or maybe precisely in the right spot. Because instead of feeling insecure or unsure of myself and questioning my own choices or judgment (as he was) I was frustrated that he was attempting to define me into something so much smaller and weaker than who or more importantly Whose I really am.

But if I'm going to live my life judging people by their motivations and not their actions then I need to understand that Mr. Helpful was really only trying to be true to his namesake. To help me out. Maybe I didn't know anything and was solely dependent on someone else for my survival. Dependent on some mere mortal who may not always be there for me. Fair enough, Mr. Helpful, fair enough. But what you don't know is that my help comes from above. From the Maker of heaven and earth who never dies or sleeps or scolds for that matter. I'm good. I hope Mr. Helpful is too.

That being said I was still a bit stunned from my lecture when I started chatting with some other moms. That is until he arrived. Mr. Helpful Part Deux. Seriously people, have mercy. Serenity now. Mr. Helpful Part Deux was there with a child well too young to need to have his bike present. It’s an elementary school, Part Deux, but there he was with his little three-year-old riding like Lance Armstrong on the best enhancements. My unsuspecting mom friend said to him (while nodding to the little brute on the bike), “No training wheels?” Which was his invitation to let fly all over me once again. “He’s never had training wheels. Never. Never had them,” he went on with increasing volume and a style akin to Frank Costanza. “He’s been on a bike since he was 18 months old. Bike came with training wheels and I threw them in the trash. No one needs training wheels. Ever! They make a child weak. Dependent on something that they’ll have to lose one day. If they start out without them they’ll get stronger, find their center of gravity and be riding within a day. No need for training wheels for anyone. People think they need them. That they’re doing them a favor. They’re not. It’s just another hurdle that’s totally unnecessary.” He repeated the word unnecessary in case we were all stunned deaf by his shouting. For some reason he was directing all of his comments at me. I didn’t address the man in the first place. I’d learned my lesson from Mr. Helpful Part One to just mind my business and keep my mouth shut. But somehow he’d decided he needed to teach me a lesson about how I’d single-handedly ruined every solitary chance my daughters ever had to win the Hunger Games. Because of the training wheels I'd put on their bikes in the early days I’d ruined them and now they’ll never know how to make it alone in the world just like their mother.

Alrighty then. Here's the thing. I'm reasonably sure my kids are going to make it in the world in spite of my obvious foible to put training wheels on their bikes when they were only 24" tall. My goal in life is not to find all of the ways I can remove things they depend on (such as God and their parents). And as we know from Mr. Helpful Number One, we won't be around forever so I'm playing with fire right there. But the truth is I love my kids as much as Part Deux loves his. We just have a different approach at parenting. A vastly different approach. And variety makes life extra spicy in such situations. But his opinion should have no bearing on the value of mine. I mean, if I think it's fine to put the training wheels on then it's fine. It's fine for me and my nippers. I don't have to question my actions and shame myself because someone else feels strongly (really, really strongly) that their approach trumps mine. We all have to figure this parenting gig out in our own way and have the decency to keep our unsolicited suggestions to ourselves.

It’s on nights like this that I’m just glad I know who I am and I really like myself. Enter Stuart Smalley. Where was he tonight? Would have been so happy to see him. A girl's gotta trust the wisdom given to her and pray for grace to cover the rest.

My Father is pleased with me. Couldn’t love me more. I am His beloved and am in His favor. May I remember not to cast any judgment about anyone based on what I think I know about them. Because of course I know nothing. Except tools. I know a lot about tools and how to use them. You'd be surprised by me, Mr. Helpful, really surprised. People aren't always what they seem. And this concludes my lesson for the day.

All that being said, it is a stiff drink kind of night.

*And the update from the Bike Rodeo today is that I brought the correct wrench to school, used it properly, cheered my girl on in her ride, and spotted Mr. Helpful Part Deux wearing a shirt that read:

Army of One

Guessing it was a gift.

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