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Changing Gears

Since Little Man finally made up his mind and conquered his bicycle, the two of us have been venturing out quite a bit on our combined four wheels. It was on one such outing a few weeks back that a wall of nostalgia slammed into me and knocked me back about 30 + years to when I got my first ten speed bicycle. As I watched Little Man speed ahead of me, his head tipped up to catch the breeze on his face, I very clearly remembered the feeling of complete and utter freedom that came to me on the saddle of that old red Schwinn. Riding that bicycle off to the destination of my choice is the first true sensation of freedom that I can remember feeling. This then zipped me forward to a similar feeling years later when I was walking down a sidewalk in Montpellier, France alone…but a part of a stream of people speaking various languages. I remember slightly extending my arms out from my sides and changing direction to cut across the crowd. There I was, a teenager in a foreign country, a mere speck on the globe, so far from my home country and family…wandering and exploring completely untethered. I felt like I could go anywhere and do anything.

These awesome sensations that I so wish to pass on to my children, ironically, are not meant to be passed on…. I can offer the necessary opportunities, as my parents did, and make my best efforts to set the scene, but in order to be and to feel authentic, they need to be realized and taken…seized, grasped and possessed. We need to be gaining freedom from something to truly feel that joy and for my children I will come more and more to represent a part of that something. It stings a little on an emotional level, but I am consciously aware of the fact that this simply means that our relationship will shift and evolve from one of comfortable dependence and control to a more challenging one involving equality and compromise.

Ideally, that will be a part of the now distant end game in my parenting journey. In the meantime, I often feel like I am stuck in an uncomfortable position reminiscent of a noisy bicycle gear change. You know…when you have just changed the gears, and they grind and click, as if fighting the effort, before finally sliding into the smooth flow of the new gear. Yes, right now…and for some time…we have been grinding and clicking. I realize that the age differences between my Moon (she is 15), my Sun (12), and Little Man (7 1/2) are partially responsible for this current feeling. I am torn. A part of me is trying to adjust to and weather the mood swings of…while enjoying the new level of conversations with my teen and preteen (who despite the almost exactly three years between them are, at this point, often mistaken for fraternal twins), while a portion of me fights to hang back and give Little Man the fun, innocent life of a seven-year-old similar to what I tried to deliver to his sisters. Silly me. Little Man is living his elementary years with sisters who have phased out of Barbies, play dough, and dress up, and are beginning to navigate one of the more formidable portions of their lives. I can only cover the boy’s ears and eyes so many times a day! He is definitely growing up in a much different environment than his sisters did before him. It becomes quite apparent in moments such as the time I walked in on Little Man walking in on a conversation between the girls (which would be eavesdropping to the second degree, I suppose). He chipped right into their discourse with, “are we talking about the sentence period or the blood one?” At the time it hit me (like a bag of bricks) that at his age the girls had no idea what a period was…and they are girls. Though, upon further investigation, his knowledge of the subject was…at best…sketchy. Little Man is a seven-year-old growing up in a home often raging with pubescent conflict. Unlike me, he does not feel the gears trying to change. This is simply his norm and he actually navigates it quite well. One school morning the girls were in full out hormonal vocal combat and I had finally succeeded in escorting (…prodding…shoving?) both of them out the door toward the bus stop. As I stepped back into the house and headed toward the kitchen, my eye caught a slight movement up on the staircase in the shadows. I turned to see Little Man peeking around the banister and he whispered quietly, “are The Sisters gone? Can I come down?” I nodded, ready to offer some comfort. He hopped down the stairs, breezed past me and happily began to play with his legos, resetting the morning ambiance.

While in this grinding and clicking phase, I often find myself pining for the smooth glide of a previous gear. Sometimes, I stop to look around and things seem downright out of place. It feels like I am living in the wrong house, in the wrong place and the wrong time…The kids are too old…even the pets aren’t right…. Don’t get me wrong…I adore our cats, Brachetto and Spumante…but where did Romeo and Juliette go? Can that much time have already passed? More importantly…as a continuum…what freudian meaning lurks behind starting out with cats named after romantic literary characters and moving on to name the next pair after Italian wines? Years from now, Jack and Bacardi are going to love it here….

No worries! Eventually, things will click into place for a time and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief until the next big shift and soldier through to the next gear. For now you will find me doing my best to peddle through the clicking and grinding and trying to field conversations, situations, and questions ranging from “how do I know if a boy likes me?”, “when should I sign up for Driver’s Ed?”, and “which is better, a tampon or a pad?” to “which dinosaur would you rather have living in the house, if you could only choose from Jurassic meat eaters?”, and “should I have a packman frog in my zoo when I grow up?”

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