“Stay to the right.”
I would repeat these instructions a thousand times over the course of the day. We were on our first family bicycle ride, sharing a well-used trail on a school holiday, practicing with our youngest, especially, how to ride confidently without training wheels and with respect to others on the trail.
It was emotionally exhausting for me, the parent assigned to him. I followed him at his pace, offering encouragement and correction when necessary. Occasionally freaking out when he tried to pass his sister and run her off the trail into the woods or, God forbid, the river. (It wasn’t really that close, but they come by their drama honestly.)
Before this day, it had been eight years since I’d ridden my own bike for any amount of time. I remember one trail ride Phil and I took just after we were married, but not long after that I was pregnant and then there was a baby and another pregnancy and two little ones and well, bicycle riding seemed like a thing of the past.
Then they got bikes and mastered riding them with training wheels and then we parents decided that the day before school started this year was the day the training wheels would come off. The kids learned quickly and practiced well and we saw the possibility of family bike rides become more than just a dream.
The actual bike riding trip was less romantic than I imagined because of the constant instruction and correction. But I remembered that this was a day I had long been waiting for.
In those early years of parenting, I thought I wouldn’t survive it. Seasoned parents told me to make it through the first five years and things would get better. I thought they were lying. Five years seemed so long. My son’s next birthday, he’ll be 6, so “five” will no longer be in our birthday vocabulary.
We’re in a season now that is better in some ways and not in others. There’s no more potty training or changing diapers or constant night waking, but there is homework and spicy personalities to manage, more grown-up things to come. (Adolescence and puberty scare the you-know-what out of me.)
This bike ride, I’d been waiting for it, the days when we could go on an outdoor family adventure together. We passed other families with older children on rides that day, and I took note: this constant instruction will prepare us for further family adventures when we will all be fully capable of riding our own bikes in our own space.
That’s the way I envision it, anyway.
The World Series starts tonight. (That’s baseball, if you’re not aware.) And the Cubs won’t be in it, which is not news except that this year there was a better chance than they’ve had in a long time.
Cubs fans are long-suffering and know well the waiting game. I won’t bore you with sports statistics but let’s just say that a lifetime is a long time to wait for your team to reach the ultimate success.
We will keep waiting, this time with more hope than despair.
What if you don’t know what you’re waiting for?
It was a question I hadn’t considered until recently. I was talking with my therapist about change and my difficulty adjusting to change. She asked me to illustrate it using her sand table (more on this in another post).
So I did.
I told her that for me, change or a dream or whatever is like a seed you can see in your hand and then you cover it up with dirt (or in this case sand) and you wait for it to grow. Eventually, you see what you’ve planted.
With our garden this year, we knew which plants were tomatoes and which were peppers and we had to wait to see what would come from each one. We planted some flower seeds that we didn’t know what they would look like when they popped up through the dirt and bloomed, but we knew they were flowers.
But right now in our life, we’re not sure what’s been planted or what’s going to grow or bloom. That’s vague, I know, but if I could explain it more to you then I’d have some clarity myself.
Phil and I have dreams, a vision for our life, but it’s kind of hazy. It’s like we have a pile of puzzle pieces but we don’t know what the picture is supposed to be when it’s done, and some of the pieces might not even belong to this puzzle. Frustrating. Immensely.
So, we’re waiting. But we don’t know what we’re waiting for. (Maybe it’s not that important, but I still want to know.) Or how long we’ll have to wait. When I see people standing in groups along the bus routes in town, I know that they’re expecting the bus and probably soon. They’ve read the schedule or have been this way before. They know what’s coming and when.
Me? I’m not certain of the what or the when. Sometimes I don’t even know why.
Except that I know that some of the best things in life take time. Home-cooked food is always better than fast food. A Sunday drive on the backroads to see the changing colors is more fulfilling than zipping down the highway at 75. The things I think about over a couple of days are better composed than the tweets I post in the heat of the moment.
As we talked about the waiting in my therapist’s office, I remembered that waiting is an active process. While our vegetables grew in the garden, we still had to weed and water. Farmers fertilize and prepare the soil when the crops aren’t growing. I don’t know exactly what it means to weed and water and fertilize in the waiting season of life, but I know that there’s hard work involved. (And fertilizing is a stinky job.)
There’s work to do in the waiting.
What are you waiting for? And if you don’t know, what are you doing while you wait?