Several years ago for Mothers Day I got an amazing pink bike. Typically we don’t really celebrate Mothers Day. Colin has pointed out that I am not, in fact, his mother so our children make cards and a minor fuss and that’s really all we do. But one year for no apparent reason, I was given the bike of my dreams. It is pink, with wide cruiser handlebars, a basket on the front, white rims on the tires and a seat on the back for Mae. It makes me happy every time I look at it. Mae was almost 3 when I got the bike, but she is so little that she fit easily into the baby seat. Almost immediately we started taking long bike rides every afternoon. Everyone that drove by us would smile. She was so delicious in her helmet with bumblebees on it and I think it looked like we were both having a very good time.
I loved riding the bike with her in those early days because it was something we both really enjoyed. And it was normal. When she was on the back of the bike there was no way to tell that she was actually two years or more behind her peers. She was just a little girl on an adventure with her Mom. I would remind myself as we rode through our neighborhood to really enjoy these moments because someday she would be too big to fit on my bike.
I haven’t put her on yet this summer. I know she hasn’t reached the weight limit but I fear that her legs are now so long that they will hang cartoonishly over the sides. Last year she was enjoying pressing her legs into my shoulders as she leaned back in the seat. I plan to teach her how to ride a bike or have someone create a seat that will allow her to sit and pedal on the back part of a tandem. It’s on my to-do list below move us into our new house and get everyone settled in school.
So far this summer I have been alone on my bike. I still love it. I love how a cruiser makes you sit up extra straight. There is always a moment when I first get on the bike when I am reminded of the freedom a bike gives you. Long before I could drive I could ride my bike to and from my grandparents’ house, my best friend’s house or into town. The pink bike will always be my favorite though, because for a few short years it gave me and my daughter a shared adventure. Something we both loved equally, and a taste of what life would be like without ever having heard the words “special needs”. I wouldn’t have appreciated those rides as much if normal moments weren’t so precious in our house. I was very conscious that they were finite and made an effort to enjoy them completely, it doesn’t make me miss them any less.
Maybe today I will put her on and see what happens. Maybe if her legs don’t dangle down too far we will go for a ride. I am not quite ready to give up on having her on the back of my bike for a few more adventures. If she is too big, we will figure out a reasonable alternative and maybe some day she will learn to ride a bike herself. I am not sure there is a better feeling than sharing an activity you love with your children. When a child has special needs that becomes harder; their world is shaped differently. Whenever I am feeling like it is hard to connect with Mae or it feels like an endless compromise, I remind myself of our rides on the pink bike. I remind myself that no matter what, there will always be something we can do together. If it isn’t a bike ride it will be something else. For some part of each day she can just be my child. Not a special needs child. Not an apraxic child, or an autistic child. Just my sweet girl on the back of my bike.