Even My Bruises Have Bruises
Alright, at first I felt badly for poor Kaitie, given our last experience with these bikes where the poor kid went flying off into fences, bushes and trees like some sort of flying squirrel with delusions of grandeur.
It was all a ruse!
This kid is a relentless dictator! A whip master! A raged-up sled driver - a tireless Viking drum master and a ruthless Catholic, harnessing the power of soul-crushing guilt to drive on her exhausted mother like a lathered horse ready to drop but eager to please.
It didn't help that the entire bike trip was an organisational failure of face-palm lore - given that we had invited Xiaona and Andy to come with us - and they brought Andy's dad along for the ride. Even though they only had two bikes. Alright, fair enough - I'm sure they will figure it out.
We arrived at Blackforest Park and set up the bikes and bike trailers in the parking lot, the standard ooh's and aah's from passersby and a couple of people snapping photos. Andy and Xiaona unfolded their bicycles (yes, unfolded) and we were ready, walking out bikes through the parking lot and toward the bike trails. Kaitie was nervous, and more or less shouted at me the entire walk across the lot.
"Be careful this time mummy."
"Go slowly this time mummy."
"Don't make me get hurt this time mummy."
The guilt is strong in that one. I promised, over and over, that she would be just fine. She might even have fun. Maybe, just maybe, she might even like bike riding. Maybe.
Have you ever had a three year old give you the side-eye? It's a bit disturbing, although nobody else saw it.
We got to the busy cafe by the entrance of the park and Paul suggested that we all get on our bikes. I requested that we go a bit farther along so we'd have a bit less of an audience but they had already taken off - he and Lochie already off in the distance like smug, graceful swans. Again.
The crowd loved our bikes and watched Lochie and Paul pedaling away into the forest, then turning expectantly toward Kaitie and I - me looking determined and her looking dubious.
We had a quick debate as to who should get on their bike first, which ended with me pretending to get on my bike while she got on slowly and yelled at me to get going but go slowly. I pleaded with her to lower her voice for the sake of the chuckling crowd - my pleas fell on deaf ears. She was on. I was kind of on, and almost ready to go. She became aggressive - "Go mummy!" she shouted, "But be careful this time!" - cue roars of laughter from the crowded cafe. "Hurry up mummy, we have to go get Daddy and Lochie!"
"I know, I know Kaitie! Okay, we're going to go now. Are you ready? One, Two..."
"Just go mummy! You're so slow!"
"Just go mummy! You're so slow!"
What the hell? I looked around to the laughter from the cafe. "Three?"
"JUST GO MUMMY!"
"Oh my God fine!" I yelled back as I stood up on the pedals and we shot forward to Kaitie's screams of "slow dowwwwwwwn mummy!" Roars of laughter behind us - I wasn't slowing down for anything, we needed to get the hell away from that cafe.
After a bit of initial screaming and shouting, Kaitie's sounds turned from terrified barks of "slow down" to squeals of glee and instructions to 'go faster'. Thrilled with the turnaround in her feelings toward bike riding and visions of our 'summer of camping and biking' making a triumphant comeback I obliged, whizzing her past trees and mud puddles, over streams and catching up to the group.
I even managed to take pictures with my phone without riding us both into a tree, so I was well impressed with my mad bike riding skills. We caught up to Paul and he reported that Kaitie was pedaling away behind me, having a great time and full of smiles. Until he tried to pass us - prompting the rage monkey behind me to screech in fury - she wanted to be the leader .Still feeling horribly guilty from our last bike riding debacle I obliged, pulling ahead to lead the pack through the forest. "Faster, faster!" she shouted - so pleased that she was having fun that I pushed harder and harder, despite the screaming protests from my legs and the fact that I had just had an infusion yesterday- pumping my heart this hard was probably not the best course of action.
Paul came up close, advising that I slow down and reminding me of my health - maybe we should take a break?
"No breaks!" came the dictator from behind. "No stopping! Go mummy go!" I shot Paul an apologetic smile as we again pulled ahead, nearly running over a dog and plowing through a mud puddle. She was having fun - we had to keep going. I shouted back to see how everyone was doing - nobody needed a break so we just kept at it.
My thighs were burning. Spasms shot through my bum cheeks as I pedaled away, so pleased that Kaitie was having a good time and that above all I was able to do this - taking it easy was for sissies.
Kaitie laughed from behind, encouraging me to go faster and faster. We came to a hill and I tried to shift gears, but I'm not very good at that either. I also thought momentarily that perhaps I should have Paul do some work on my brakes as I plowed forward up the hill, legs screaming in protest. I shouted back for Kaitie to pedal harder, I needed all the help I could get. She shouted back, telling me that she was holding her brake.
She released the brake and we shot up the hill, me standing in my seat to leverage my pushes as much as I could. My legs hurt so badly - my lungs were tight and my right eye started to twitch. Maybe I should slow down after all...
"Go faster mummy!"
I pushed harder, determined to make it up the hill - I could hear the pants of the group behind me - I couldn't do it. I had to stop. Thankfully, Kaitie was distracted by some ducks and wanted to stop (whew!) so we pulled over to the side to let the group past. I needed a minute, and a moment of privacy to clear out my nose and throat in the most unladylike of fashions - "just keep going" I told them. But no, they all stopped. I had so much phlegm in my nose and mouth that I could barely speak, I needed to clear this out. I had no tissues with me. It was going to be gross and manly - I needed them to keep going.
But no. Andy and his father whipped out their professional grade cameras, taking pictures of us, and the surroundings. I was sick, they wall wanted me in the lead so they could keep an eye on me. Kaitie wanted to go. Despite my protests, without actually explaining to them what I needed to do they wouldn't leave. Nobody would leave. Off we went again, pushing as hard as I could to try to get a good lead so I could grossly clear my throat without anyone seeing but we were now going downhill - I had minimal brakes and we were now really picking up speed. I risked a quick look behind me and saw that I had a little bit of distance between us and the rest of the group - it was now or never.
I've never been able to spit. Given that it is a rather un-ladylike thing to do this inability has never much bothered me, but I was desperate and, as Paul had taught me, I built it up and spit it out away from me as discreetly as possible.
I had spit directly into the wind and to the side. I could see it fly out in slow motion, whipping out behind me and past my line of vision until I heard a scream from behind - Kaitie had something in her eye.
Oh God no.
I truly am the worst mother ever.
I've got my penance though - I woke up this morning with legs so sore I can barely move. Even my bruises have bruises.