Ellie just learned to ride her bike a few weeks ago. We had gotten her a bike in February for her birthday, but in Utah, February and March don’t provide too many optimal riding opportunities. We took her to the church parking lot when we finally had a nice Saturday, and we did the usual drill–push, hold, run along side, let go, watch her fall, try again. She was a trooper. After an hour or so all she needed was a little push to get going and she could ride.
It took her a few more tries in our cul-de-sac and she got the hang of starting by herself. Once she had that, she wanted to ride her bike out front every chance she got. She loves riding that bike. Of course, out in front of our house is pretty much the only riding she’s ever done, aside from a little family bike ride around our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago. Over Memorial Day, we had the opportunity to challenge her, and Zach, for a ride along the Jordan River Parkway with some of Scott’s family. It’s a beautiful ride, and quite easy for an adult. But for a kid on a bike with no gears, on a trail with hills that ended up being 14 miles round trip, we were asking a lot.
Ellie had never ridden more than about 4 miles. Zach had never ridden more than about 5. There were moments when both kids wanted to quit. Zach pulled over after a few miles and said “Can we go back? I’m tired. My legs hurt.” Then he did it again a few miles later. “I don’t want to ride anymore!” Sorry, Charlie. If Ellie was in the back, watching all those big grown ups in front of her, she got discouraged. “I can’t do this Mom. I’m tired.” You can do it. Once she got up in front, she knew it too. And she had a blast.
On the way back, Zach led a breakaway group home without looking back. “Like a horse to his stable,” Scott’s Dad said. On the hills that went up and down on the last mile before home, I looked back at Ellie and her face was contorted like she was about to cry. “I was crying in my head,” she later told me. I said, “Ellie it’s just over these hills. You can do it.” She took a deep breath and kept pushing those pedals around on the only gear she had available. I felt bad, knowing I had switched to an easier gear several times on the ride. But that option wasn’t available for her, and there was no where to go but forward.
We made it to my in-laws’ street and Ellie knew she was almost there. It was an uphill climb to the finish. On our short neighborhood ride the day before, this is where she had hopped off her bike and walked. But she had ridden 14 miles and she wasn’t about to quit now. She pushed harder and moved her bike ahead, finishing the ride just in front of me. The look on her face was priceless–I wish I had taken a picture. “You did it Ellie!” I said. She grinned with the pleasure of someone who’s just conquered the world. “I didn’t know I could ride that far.”
I think there’s a pretty good metaphor in there somewhere. How many times have I been in a situation that was hard, that I’ve never done before, when I’ve felt like I might need to quit? But then, digging deep, that’s when we find out what we’re made of. It helps when you have a few people along the way who can say “You’re almost there!” and “You can do it!” I’m starting a new book project right now, on the subject of parenting with the Holy Spirit. I love the topic and I have loved diving in to the research, reading books and articles and interviewing people. But there have been moments where I have sat back and said, “How am I going to do this? This is too big, too important a subject. I can’t do it.” I think we all have days like that. I guess those are the days I’ll remember Zach and Ellie’s 14 miles. I’ve just got to keep pushing those pedals and, eventually, hopefully, I’ll make it.