It’s just like riding a bike they said. You just get on and it all comes back to you. I disagree. I am sitting here nursing a myriad of bruises as I contemplate that saying. It does not come right back to you. When you are used to high handlebars and pushing on the bike pedals to stop, a bike excursion with a new fangeled bike becomes a carnival ride of terror. Did I mention it was on a mountain trail with serious drop offs and a 1.5 mile long tunnel?
In full disclosure it was supposed to be a beautiful ride. I just had trouble controlling the wobble as my seat shifted because it was not tight enough. When it turned left I did too and crashed into the wall of a dark tunnel. As I lay there moaning ” oh no” a Good Samaritan biker older than me helped me up. As she dusted me off she told me ” I had a lot of spills when I started out too. ” I would have hugged her neck but my arm hurt too much. When my husband and sister ( an Army mom ) caught up to me, I had stopped crying. As I limped out of the tunnel into the sunlight they said, ” Just hop on and keep pedaling. You will feel better. ” Are you kidding me? But 13.5 miles later as we finally finished an eventful ride, I did feel better. The bruises were much less severe than I expected and I am on my feet.
I have been pondering this latest adventure. I reach out for them even when I am afraid to help manage the other fears rumbling beneath the surface. What is happening in the skies over Asia? Keep pedaling. How is life in Afghanistan? Pedal harder. I cannot do anything to protect my children. Pedal like a Tour de France rider.
Loss of control. It sent me into a stone wall and left me reeling, much like it felt when my children entered military service. I was dazed, bloodied and bruised as I learned to let go. The feeling is replicated with each deployment. I experience an overwhelming loss of control, and a lack of communication. The wobbly start eventually turns into the hum of the wheels and then bam! There is another rock in the path or a pothole I must recover from.
I want to hang onto to my children for dear life. But I must let go and trust in their abilities to do the jobs they were trained for. They chose this life of service. They want to be the best and do what they were called to do. If I hang on too tight I get in the way. They don’t need to worry about me.
I became skilled at teaching children to ride a bike. After a number of kids you get proficient at the steps. First the training wheels to allow them to build confidence, to learn to brake, and steer. Then we raise the training wheels ever so much as they learn about balance. And then one day the training wheels are gone and we practice over and over again with me running and holding on. ” Steer, don’t forget to pedal, use your brakes. ” Finally it is time to let go. Maybe there are a few spills and then voila! They are gliding away. If I hang on too tight I will make them fall. Off they go down the gravel driveway filled with exhilaration. They don’t hear my futile shout ” Not so fast. You’re gonna fall!” They are on their way to independence.
It was easier when I was holding on. But it was not in their best interest. Now as adults, as warriors, I cannot hold on too tight either. I cannot limit them with my fears or loneliness. They were born to fly. I must exult in who they are and have become. When I let go and trust in them and their abilities the path gets easier. This is the secret to stability as a military mom. Knowing that your child has what it takes to do what must be done and not holding them back.
If you feel wobbly remember who you raised. They would not have made this choice if they did not feel confident that they could do it. Sure there are bumps in the road and times when they question whether they can keep on going. There are times when we wonder if we can. But you just get back on that bike and keep riding, bruises and all.
Pedal on Sisters.