Monday, April 27, 2009

Life On The Road: Bikes and boos

Well, it has been some time since I have posted. I have my laptop back and am excited to be back writing. A little history is in order. We are now about a year into our marriage, trying to recover from a terrible year financially, when we are blessed with a large contract in North Carolina. To meet the terms of the contract we must open and maintain an office in Charlotte, NC. In addition, Geri and I must be in Charlotte every other week from 9:00 am Monday morning to 5:00 pm on Friday. We started by driving between Michigan and North Carolina every Sunday right after church, (15 hours) then we would spend our week in a modest long stay motel and drive back to Michigan on Saturday morning. It was very trying. Moving our crew in and out, hauling clothes and daily need items as well as all our business supplies back and forth just didn’t cut it.

Earlier I had suggested we look at a park model trailer for our use, but Geri was very clear about NOT wanting a camping lifestyle. She wanted her bed made and her meals cooked in a restaurant. But after three to four weeks of traveling back and forth, she caved. We purchased a 35 foot, single slide trailer and a brand new Suburban to haul it with. Little did we know that this would begin a traveling lifestyle we would continue for almost fifteen years. After trying out several campgrounds, we settled on a spot in a long term campground where we could leave the trailer year round. This proved to be an excellent solution. We stocked the trailer with everything we needed so we could just drive back and forth. We loved it and soon found ourselves just staying in NC and not coming back to Michigan for our off weeks.

Geri and I love to bike and would ride the campground every day while our nanny watched the kids. Life was great. On one of our rides, Geri was telling me about some special three wheel bikes she found advertised and wondered if I thought we could teach Tony and Elaina to ride. We checked it out and made the purchase. We had the bikes shipped to a local bike store for assembly and when they were ready took Tony and Elaina with us to pick them up. Now, we had no idea how this would go, but we were bound and determined to give it a try. Once back in the campground, we started our training. Short little rides. Lots of the mom and dad running along side of the bike trying hard not to get hurt. You never want to forget the fact that the wheels are not lined up. When you stop and the bike keeps going it is so hard on the back side of your leg. Elaina did very well. She caught on in a few days and was ready to ride with us. Tony, well, that proved more difficult. I tried everything I could to get him to pedal. This was difficult because Tony had no desire to learn. Felt like work to him. Tony’s not into work. It became a battle of the wills. I got to the point where I would not let him off until he could make it all around the campsite by himself. He finally gave in and made up his mind to ride the bike. So now we are ready for the first ride around the campground roads.

Dinner’s over. Time for our very first campground ride. Dad’s pretty proud that he has won this battle and ready to show off Tony riding his bike. Off we go. Everything is going well. One little detail I overlooked. People. They were my downfall. Tony has a problem. He can’t see new people without waving. In the campground, you have new people every 75 feet. His other problem is, that if they wave back, he must wave with more passion. So much so that he would let go of the handle bars, take his feet off the pedals, and try to turn and wave. This action in not conducive to bike riding. I would holler at him to put his hands back on the bars and keep peddling. This worked, sort of. If you know campgrounds, you know that everyone hears everything and I don’t have a soft voice. So now we are getting spectators. Tony wants to wave more. About the third time, he gets his foot caught under the pedal and yes, he falls off the bike like a bull in a china shop. Bike is on top of him. He is scraped up from the gravel, blood running down one side of his face. Screaming. One other thing about a campground, when a kid falls off a bike, the spectators come running to help.

This is where the title comes in. I turn around, ride over to him, get off my bike and pull the trike off Tony. I help him up. I straighten out the handlbars and point the bike in the right direction. Tony’s crying and screaming. Geri rides back to make sure Tony is ok. I tell Tony to get back on the bike, my demeanor is relativity harsh. We’re a long way from the trailer and I’m not into pushing two bikes with a screaming kid. Tony has made up his mind he will never get back on his bike. Dad has to force him. Boos. Yes, that’s right they started booing me. What they thought of me could be read in their faces. They were sure Tony was dying and I should carry him home. They have no idea what an actor this kid is. So I get him back on the bike and place both hands on the bars and start him pedaling. All the time I’m hollering at him to keep his hands on the bars and pedal. Geri is headed off with Elaina to get as much distance between us as possible. She’s sure the mob may try and lynch me.

For the remainder of the ride, I stayed very close to Tony and kept him on track. He’s busy crying and making faces. I can still hear the spectators booing me. Once back at the trailer, I cleaned the boy up and put the bikes away. I was happy to be away from the boos.

Now the folks who booed me thought I was too harsh when I made Tony get back on the trike. I don’t. Too many people have fallen without anyone to encourage them to get back up. Too many people miss great opportunities in life because they got hurt once and will never take a chance again. Way too many people never come back to church because someone hurt their feelings. If I had let Tony alone, he may never have gotten back on that trike. I know this is not easy, we would prefer to coddle our kids, make life easy for them. Too many dads have relegated the task of raising their children to their wives. The truth is, life is not easy, not for normal children or for handicapped children. Or adults for that matter. We need our children to be prepared; we need them to know how to push through difficult or painful experiences. They will have them. We have abandoned the God ordained task of raising our children to be responsible, self sufficient, respectful and productive. So even though the spectators booed me, I know it was the best for both of us. Tony learned another life skill and I was blessed for doing my job. Tony still rides his trike. We still have some problems. But now when he hits something, falls off or has some other disaster, he just starts over.

Hope you enjoyed this little episode in my lessons from Tony. The next post will be titled “Life On The Road” a series of our experiences traveling around this great nation in a motorhome.