One of my goals for this summer was to teach Adelaide and Atticus to ride their bikes without training wheels.
I knew Atticus would be an easy sell, as he's been begging to have his training wheels taken off his bike for some time now, but Adelaide... well. Eight year old Adelaide feels the same way about bicycles that eight year old Me felt about them, in that we each looked at our mothers like, "Hang on, so you want me to climb aboard this two-wheeled metal contraption that can't even stand up on its own unless you're pedaling hard enough to make it travel so fast that a slight bump can cause serious injury to my person? My gosh, woman, you still haven't let go of that whole body-writhing pain experience that was my labor and delivery, have you? Will the paybacks never end?"
I spent one evening running alongside giant Adelaide on her giant bike, trying to keep the pair of them- who were just about as big as I am put together- upright and not brain-damaged, getting whacked in the face every time we ran past our neighbor's cursed tree whose limbs extend over the sidewalk at a height of right about five feet. As much as I loved providing that day's entertainment to all our neighbors and random passersby, by the end of the night I was literally pulling leaves out of my hair and mouth and Adelaide was no closer to riding on her own. The next day we packed up the bikes, went to the high school parking lot, and within about two minutes of unloading, Atticus was cruising easily across the pavement, biking like he's been doing it his whole life. It took one extra day and a smaller bike to have Adelaide riding unassisted, and I still don't think she ever would have seen the need to master bike-riding if her little brother hadn't caught onto it so easily and had the nerve to out-perform her.
Over the past week, they've been riding quite a bit, getting the hang of riding on narrow paths such as dead end streets and sidewalks. Atticus, again, has taken to it all extremely well, while Adelaide has been more timid, but still working on it, steadily improving.
Sunday evening, Derek and Atticus were out golfing, and so Adelaide decided to take advantage of her brother's absence and work on increasing her own two-wheeling skills.
At one point, I went inside to get Caedmon some water, came back out, and didn't see our daughter.
I looked up and down the sidewalk, but couldn't find her. I did, however, see a large truck driving slowly in front of our house, almost like they were waiting for an obstruction in the road to move.
Right about then, Adelaide came from around the lilac bush and into sight, walking her bike onto the sidewalk, crying a bit wildly, blue eyes huge.
As she came closer, she dumped the death trap into the grass and told me that "The bike tipped over and into the street and I couldn't get up right away and then there was a truck coming right toward me and it was about to hit me and I almost died!" (Insert near-hyperventilation every third word.)
Remember how I have this thing where I laugh at extremely inappropriate moments? Like when I'm telling people someone's died, or conversely, when our daughter is telling me she almost died?
I could feel it coming on. I had to fight to keep the smile from spreading across my face as soon as she started talking. By the time she was done I was trying to turn the escaping laughter into a sympathetic, "Oh, Adelaide, I'm sorry." I had the merest inkling that I'd failed because of her quavery reply of "STOP LAUGHING AT ME!" This sent me completely over the edge, and I dashed inside to try and catch my breath, I was laughing so hard.
Of course our neighbors were outside. I can only imagine what we looked like: young girl crashes into the street, truck comes down the street, mother nowhere to be seen, girl has to pick herself up lest she be crushed, girl appropriately traumatized, limps out of the street and recounts the horror to her reappearing mother, mother laughs in her face, girl wails, mother flees back into her house gasping and guffawing, all while impressionable 3-year-old brother watches.
As I told all this later that night to a shaking-his-head Derek, I mused, "I really don't know how you leave me alone with these children."
"Neither do I." Poor Derek. He's probably ready for school to start again, just so he knows his children have some kind of sympathetic adults nearby, because Lord knows they don't here.