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The Long Walk from School

When the weather finally started to stay consistently warm, I promised Little Man I would bike back and forth to school with him on every nice day my schedule would allow for until the beginning of summer vacation. Learning to ride a bike was a process for him, to say the least. It would actually be more correct to say that he processed the crap out of learning to ride a bike…but you can read all about that on this very blog, if you so wish ( Given what we all went through to get to this point, I deeply appreciate our rides together.

I hate to break promises. I hate to so much so that I will almost never make a promise and will instead tell the kids I will “try to” do something or I might at most “promise to try my best to” do something when they actively push to extract a promise from my lips. As a rule of thumb, I will only straight out promise them something if I am 100% certain I can deliver…and I was (naive, right?). And this promise, I will admit, was also a little self-serving. You see, I started playing tennis a few years back and summer is when I generally play singles the most. Singles requires a lot more running and leg strength, and I am not a runner…nor will I ever be a runner for a myriad of reasons (unless there is a bear or something equally as threatening chasing me…or a tennis ball somewhere in front of me). By promising Little Man I would bike to and from school with him, not only would I be spending some quality time with the boy and learning more than I ever imagined I would ever know (or want to know) about insects, lizards, dinosaurs,…etc, but I would also be committing myself to four leg-strengthening rides a day (back and forth twice for me). You can see how this would be a win win situation for everyone, right? You can see why I would think that this would be a good time to make a promise and lock myself in, right?

I did, in fact, get in a few rides with him…before tearing a disc in my back in a totally unrelated incident (I’ll let you know if I ever figure out exactly what said incident was). Not only did this effectively remove the reason for my leg conditioning regimen, but it also made it impossible for me to even think about climbing onto my bicycle without a stream of obscenities bursting forth from my lips. So, I found myself faced with a dilemma: I could either issue complimentary ear plugs to all the parents of children biking and walking the trail to school and try to ride anyway… possibly worsening my injury, or break my promise… Of course, I knew that I had a valid reason for breaking my promise, but that didn’t make it feel any better when I was looking into those big hazel eyes.

Little Man was visibly disappointed, but took it pretty well. I think watching me cringe and painfully transition from one position to another made the whole thing more real for him. He asked what things hurt and if he could help me. I told him it mostly hurt when I was in the process of standing up or sitting down, so he asked if we could walk to school with our puppy instead. Fueled by that original promise and a rush of ambition, I agreed. We don’t live that close to the school, and since it usually takes us at least 15 to 20 minutes to bike to the school (it takes me about 10 to bike back by myself…he tends to get distracted), I set some conditions and told him that we would have to leave a lot earlier than usual and let him know that he would still have to take the bus home in the afternoon. He was fine with that.

It was a pleasant walk. We chatted the whole way (well…he actually did most of the chatting, but that’s because I had little to add about Christmas Island crabs, and my knowledge was even more lacking when it came to dung beetles). He also pitched me a couple of curve ball questions about terrorism and why people hurt each other, which made me long for a return to the subject of dung, but I did my best to address his fears and answer his questions. Overall, we had a good bonding experience and I thought walking to school with him would be the perfect way to fulfill the spirit of my original promise.

At least, this was my plan…until the walk home. Somehow the walk home turned out to be a much longer endeavor involving some sort of secret rebellion pact between the puppy and my back, with Mother Nature throwing in her two cents in the form of heightened sustained winds. As I mulled over the topic of our next heart to heart: ambition versus insanity, I realized that just like that I was back to breaking my promise… or, in this case, my attempted substitute promise.

When he got home from school that day, I once again looked into those deep hazel eyes and told him that we would not be able to walk to school again either. I explained that it was still a little too painful for Mamma’s back, to which he replied, “sorry, Mamma. I guess sometimes pain is just a part of life.” To which I replied, “what the frick? Could you please try to remember that you are EIGHT years old and just be eight?” (in my head… the outer me smiled and nodded, not wanting to be openly out-matured by an eight-year-old.)

In the end, I was surprised to find that breaking the promise turned out to be a lot harder on me than it was on Little Man. I suppose that it took me by surprise given that this is the same child that has been known to fold into a hysterical ball of whine and tears and completely shut down a family dinner simply because someone inadvertently placed the wrong placemat at his spot. I would like to think that his easy acceptance had something to do with him somehow absorbing some of the life lessons we have been trying to instill, but I may be taking too much credit. In any case, somehow along the way he learned that sometimes curve balls are also just a part of life. Now…you will have to excuse me…I am pretty sure that is not his placemat sitting under his plate and I’m just going to switch that out real quick before he comes down for dinner. No freaking way I am chancing that tonight! One life lesson at a time!

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