The phone rang. It was my sister.
“How are you?” she asked.
“Okay,” I sighed. “Lately, I just feel like I have 50 kids instead of five.”
“Hmmmm….Five kids to the tenth power.”
Sometimes, that is just the way it is. It seems to me our family goes through seasons when we are just hit with one thing after another. My kids were back in school after their three week break for one day before illness after illness began to make the rounds.
Day after day I have been caring for sick children. Yesterday alone, one daughter came down with strep throat and my eldest son sustained a possible broken wrist in gym class. This morning when I approached the front desk of the pediatrician’s office, the sweet receptionist clunked down our 4″ thick file and said, “Who is it today, Mrs. Gragg?”
I was there yesterday too.
And the day before……..
I will probably be there tomorrow to have an x-ray of the wrist.
But this afternoon was one of those sweet, sweet lulls in the storm that makes me infinitely glad to be a mother of a house full of kids.
The four-year old Queen of Sass sauntered up to me, with all the seriousness an individual can invoke while wearing a Hello Kitty bike helmet with actual ears, to make an announcement.
“Mommy, I want you to take off my training wheels.”
“Okay,” I said. “Are you ready to fall? Everyone falls when they are learning to ride a bike.”
She thought for a moment. “No,” she said. Then, she walked away.
Five minutes later, she was back.
“Mommy, I am ready for you to take off my training wheels.”
“Are you ready to fall?”
“Yes. I am ready to fall.”
“Okay. Rule number one: Don’t be afraid to fall.”
I grabbed a wrench, flipped the bike on its handle bars and removed the training wheels under the watchful eyes of several kids. Then, I handed it to her and said, “Rule number two: Never stop peddling. The moment you stop, you will fall.”
“Okay,” she said. Then, she grabbed the bike and walked it to the back yard.
“Look at her go,” her oldest brother said, his voice full of wonder. “She looks like she has been doing that every day of her life.”
I took her to a slight incline in the back yard, gave a few last pointers, grabbed the seat and off we went. A moment later, I felt her gain her balance and I took my hand off the seat. To the shock of everyone, she peddled several feet before she fell. Cheers rang all around as she was congratulated and hugged by all her siblings. We tried again, and she doubled her distance before crashing to the ground. On the third time, she went further still.
Her siblings were full of encouragement and celebration, and baby girl…..well, she was absolutley radiant.
And I remembered so many things. I remembered changing her diarreha soaked clothing in Haiti again and again. I remembered trying so hard to be brave as I looked at her frail little body. I remember slipping a size 3 month onseie over my two-year old daughter’s head to find that it fit. I cried then.
I remembered bringing her home and the first time she cried when she was dirty. “She finally knows someone will come,” I thought. I remembered how for the longest time she could not walk across the floor without falling flat on her face. She could not climb the stairs, or jump, or stand on one foot.
Then, the tide began to turn. She fell less, then she ran. She began to climb the stairs…and lots of other things. She learned to pump a swing at age three. Last week, she turned a cartwheel for the first time.
And today…today my baby girl learned to ride her bike.
And I was reminded that sometimes, we have to just keep peddling to remain upright and that we have to be willing to fall before we can fly.