Our Kids Are Just Kids

My boys decked out for battle this morning

Yesterday was our sons’ annual well check at the pediatrician’s office. I never know exactly what to expect at these check ups because my kids are loose canons. When the doctor asks them questions, I’m never sure how they’ll respond. When Joe was five, he told the doctor that I fed him only bread and water and that he had no bed time. While the no bed time comment was true because he would never follow an actual schedule, I was in fact feeding him decent foods on a regular basis. Luckily for me, pediatricians are used to all sorts of weird answers from children, so the doctor lets my boys’ weirdness slide. I’m sure he goes home at the end of our visit, however, and tells his wife the crazy things I say immediately after my children make some random declaration of child abuse: “I do feed him. I swear I do. Bread and water are his favorite foods.”

Now that the boys are school age, the questions are a bit different. The doctor yesterday asked them what grades they were going into, what school they attended, and how they were doing in their studies. He then asked them the question I dread the most.

“So, what sports do you guys do?”

“Ummm…we don’t do any sports,” Joe replied.

“I don’t like sports,” was Luke’s immediate response.

“Well, what do you do when you’re outside then?” the doctor tried again.

“Nothing,” Joe said.

“Play with friends,” Luke said.

“I think he means what kind of exercise do you do,” I prompted.

“We don’t like exercise,” Joe replied.

“But, they do get exercise,” I back pedaled. “They hike, ride bikes, and swim in the summer. We snowshoe and hike in the winter.”

“What do you boys want to be when you grow up?” he tried again.

“I’m not telling you,” said Luke, too embarrassed to reveal that his dream is to be an Ironman-like superhero who designs sets for the Lego company.

“I don’t know,” Joe answered honestly.

“That’s okay,” the doctor told him. “Lots of grown ups don’t know what they want to be when they grow up.”

True enough. The doctor breezed through the rest of the well check, clearly unconcerned about Luke’s refusal to eat vegetables (“He’s gaining weight and his blood tests look good”) and Joe’s split lip (“Throw some Aquaphor on there and give it time”).

While we were on our trip, many of the kids the boys played with asked them about sports. Most of our friends’ sons participate in multiple sports and play in all kinds of leagues. We know soccer players, baseball players, football players, hockey players, and lacrosse players. They have friends who do tae kwon do, swim team, and triathlons. They regularly watch sports on television and have favorite teams. Our boys, on a good day, can maybe tell you the names of the four pro sports teams in Denver. Maybe.

Steve and I were discussing the other day the fact that our kids have shown no interest in activities and sports. We’ve registered them for soccer, baseball, swimming, and sports camps and they’ve whined about having to go. They just can’t bring themselves to care. Honestly, I’m relieved they don’t. Our nights are not hurried to get to and through practices and my weekends aren’t spent sitting on a wet, grassy sideline as it snows on my sons’ games. I don’t miss it.

Prompted by the comments of friends, though, about how our boys need activities to get into college and how by the time they decide they’re interested in sports the other kids will be far better than they are and they will not make the team, I have wondered if we’re doing our sons a great disservice by letting them skip out on sports when they’re young. Then, the other day, hubby said something that made me feel much better about it all.

“You know, they may not be great at sports. But, you know what they are great at? Being kids.”

He’s right. They’re 9 and 11. They have their whole lives to decide what their interests are and what they enjoy. For now, it’s good enough that they like to dress up in crazy costumes and run around carrying plungers and being superheroes. Our boys might be short on discipline, but they’re long on imagination. And, that may serve them just as well if not better in the long run.

Confession…Sometimes I Too Hate Cyclists Even Though I Am One

Whenever I tell someone I am a “cyclist” (I have to put that word in quotes because I’m less of a die-hard cyclist and more of a person who rides a bike occasionally for exercise), I get the same reaction. There is a pause followed by this statement: “You know what I hate about cyclists?” As soon as this statement is uttered, I know the rest of the information that will follow. They don’t need to say a word. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The things you hate about cyclists are the same things other cyclists despise about cyclists. True story.

While out riding today, the first day of the Colorado MS 150, I am absolutely certain I witnessed first hand the myriad things you despise about cyclists. There are the cyclists who think it’s perfectly acceptable to ride 4 abreast, encroaching upon one entire car lane in the process. There are the cyclists who don’t obey traffic laws, perhaps refusing to stop for traffic lights or stop signs. There are the cyclists who while passing another cyclist or a pedestrian fail to announce their presence with a simple, courteous “passing on your left.” Certainly, there are other complaints, but those are the top three I hear.

I can assure you I saw every one of those cycling infractions played out during our ride today. Multiple times, even. Every time it happened, I shook my head and muttered a choice expletive. Cyclists who ride without obeying the rules of the road and using proper cycling etiquette are more a threat to my safety than passing cars. Negligent cyclists on the road frighten me more than semi trucks doing 60.

I would love it if I could change these cyclists’ behavior. It would make my biking experiences far more enjoyable. Truth is, though, I can’t rein them in anymore than you can convince the mouthy guy at the football game not to drop the F-bomb repeatedly in front of your kids. I don’t know why some cyclists behave like a**hats. I wish I did. Is it that American attitude of entitlement that makes them feel they are above the law? Are they simply ignorant? Maybe it all boils down to a personality defect? I’m not sure, but please know that if I could fix it to increase my safety I would do it.

Not all cyclists ride with their heads stuck up their butt. Most cyclists are cautious and decent. But, it’s the misguided antics of a small percentage that stand out. Come on. You know that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, right? So before you unload your grievances on the next cyclist you meet, remind yourself that not every cyclist is a bad one. Try to cut us some slack. We know some other riders are idiots. We are just trying really hard to forget it.

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The Difference Between A Rut And A Grave

My brand-new, 13 year old Kona mountain bike gets a rest while I hydrate.

“The only difference between a rut and a grave are the dimensions.”  ~Ellen Glasgow

I haven’t ridden my mountain bike on a singletrack trail in about seven years. This morning, in desperate need of exercise but short on time, I decided I would ride the six-mile, singletrack loop on the open space park behind our home. I used to be slightly more experienced at negotiating the rocks and bumps on a mountain bike trail. I used to have a bit more confidence about it too. Although I’ve ridden over 900 miles so far this year, these have been road bike or trainer miles. And those, as you can imagine, feel very different than mountain bike miles. This morning I might as well have been piloting a moon rover over the pitted surface of that hard, space rock. I felt lost.

All the time I’ve spent in the bike saddle this year kept me from becoming winded on the incline part of the ride today, but that’s the only thing my training prepared me for. I forgot how freaking bumpy the bike feels on a rocky path. I forgot how my hands get tired from the tighter grip I need to keep on the handlebars while negotiating the twists, turns, and obstacles along the way. I forgot the nerve that’s required when you see what lies a head of you. I forgot how your personal space is invaded by plants that brush you as you ride and remind you how narrow your path is. Aside from the two-wheeled mode of transport and the basic skill of balancing on a bike long enough to propel it forward, these sports seemed very far apart from each other this morning. If road biking is a cheetah (or, in my case, maybe a blind, three-legged cheetah), then mountain biking is a mountain goat (or in my case, a blind, three-legged mountain goat).

I had to rediscover some things on the ride, like that I’m not currently coordinated enough to ride and drink while on a singletrack trail. This is why it would have been worth it to pull my Camelback out of storage. But, the most important thing I remembered is that to be successful while mountain biking you have to trust yourself and your bike. You have to believe that the bike will carry you over the obstacles and that you will be able to control it when it does. The problem for me is that trust is not ever been something I’ve excelled at. I’m suspicious. I’m cautious. I’m a recovering control freak. I’ve been conditioned to eliminate the variables to create a smooth journey. But, mountain biking is not a smooth journey.

The more I thought about it on the much less tenuous descent toward home, the more I realized that I need to work toward becoming a better mountain biker because those skills are skills I need in my every day life. I need to trust. I need to believe. I need to push myself just a little bit further than I’m comfortable with because I can do it if I just try. You can only grow if you ask yourself to move beyond the grooves you’ve worn into your daily existence. Once you jump the boundary and veer ever-so-slightly off course, things change. You change.

I’m going to get myself some clipless pedals and fun mountain bike shoes and start pushing myself a bit more to ride that singletrack trail behind my house. Maybe if I do I’ll become confident enough to try other nearby trails and branch out. And, if I can do that, I’m fairly certain I will grow enough spine to try other new challenges as well. This morning, I felt lost while out on that six-mile loop. Sometimes, though, being lost can remind you how it feels to stop going through the motions and actually live.