"Wait! I'm just an old dorky lady and I need you to slow down!" I laugh while I whine this. "Oh, I AM well aware of THAT, Mom," barks the newly craggy voice of my teenage son, as he rides on his bike well ahead of me.
This past Mother's Day, my son and I headed out for a bike ride, something we do on occasion throughout summers. The rides are special to us without either of us having to voice it.
On this day, I call out to him, and he turns around. I'm struggling with the metal frame that holds my water bottle, because I've ridden over a bump in the sidewalk and it suddenly came loose, and the bottle is flopping over, ready to slide out.
My boy comes back to me with a half-irritated, half-amused grin on his face, and he's shaking his head.
He gives me a sidelong glance and a smirk, and he tightens the bolts with his strong fingers, and my bottle is once again securely fastened to the frame of my bike.
We take off again, riding to the forest preserve several streets over, which has a long trail that goes around a lake. It's really a very lovely trail.
Years ago, my son wanted to ride around this lake when he was a preschooler. Always strong and athletic, he essentially taught himself to ride a bike – he coasted down small hills on sidewalks, his training wheels never touching the ground.
It took weeks for my frustrated daughter to be taught by my husband how to ride at age six. She wanted to keep up with her friends, so she kept coming back to it, but it was scary for her, and she toiled to coordinate it all, threatening that poor bike and calling it names as she fought to keep balance and ride.
It was entirely different with my son.
I knew he was ready to ride on his own when he was four. My husband was gone on a business trip, and I could tell that sometimes, the training wheels seemed to get in his way. It was time.
I nervously took the training wheels off. I told him to get on. I pushed him across our court as fast as I could, yelled "PEDAL, BUDDY!" and he did. He never looked back. He just rode around the court smiling and laughing.
Back to our Mother's Day ride this year. I hadn't ridden since last summer, and was clearly more out of shape than I thought. I was riding into the wind, and at times, all I could do was put that bike in low gear and just pedal as best I could.
I came to realize that I was also trying to keep up with a thirteen-year-old young man whose baby softness had dropped completely away in the preceding months, worked off by football and wrestling seasons, months of hockey practice and games, weeks of track practice and meets, and a weight training regimen. And a healthy dose of new testosterone running through his body.
I could see my son way ahead of me, occasionally looking back, sometimes with fake annoyance, and sometimes to check on me to make sure I was alright.
I remember riding on this very path with him years ago, stopping at times to give my enthusiastic four-year-old boy a break to rest and drink some water.
In those days, I would have him ride ahead of me, so that I could see where he was going and direct him to wait for me before he crossed the street where cars crossed the path from the parking lots.
But now I realize that not only am I watching my boy physically grow up, I'm watching him as he begins to become my equal in other ways.
"Mom," he calls back in a voice I'm still getting used to "I'm going to cross now, and there's one car coming – by the time you get here it'll be gone and the road will be completely open for you to cross."
We take a break at one point on the path, admiring the sunset, viewing the gentle waves in the water, observing a family of geese with baby goslings following their parents in tow.
He looks at my bike after a while. "It seems like your seat is too low, Mom. Let me adjust it for you." And he does. It feels more comfortable when he's done.
We take off again, and before long, he is way ahead of me again.
But I don't mind.
Because, this is one of "our things" that we do together. He has plenty of friends to see and always has places to go, but we both enjoy these rides, and he makes time for them. I'm looking forward to more.
He isn't really leaving me in the dust. He is giving me a gift. I watch him ahead of me, silhouetted against the sunset, and I look in awe at my baby boy, clearly on the way to manhood, and I admire how his increasingly athletic frame muscles up the hills and coasts down the paths.
I'm not sad, surprisingly, when I think of him as the little boy, trying with all his might to pedal up the hill by our home on his mini two wheeler.
I know it's a gift to watch my son grow up, and I relish watching him do so every way – both in his accomplishments and even in the mundane things of every day life.
It was indeed, a wonderful Mother's Day.
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