I knew I would cave in eventually: the guys finally got me to race cyclocross. I was surprised by how scary it was and how fun. Despite having done no training other than occasionally biking Sophie to day-care, and despite this being my third time ever biking off-road, I managed to do those sandpit hairpin turns and the dirt-hills, and one terrifyingly steep long drop, and finish the race respectably. I wasn’t last, wasn’t even second-to-last. I am proud to say that I came in third-to-last. I won points for Ben’s team.
That’s me on the left. Ben says I need to work on my game-face so that I look as fierce as Dino on the right. He’s right.
But since this is a mommy-blog, I’ll tell you more about the mom issues in the race. Ben had told me that racing is painful, but he thought that since I gave birth without pain medication, I could clearly do this. I’ll tell you, the pain of racing isn’t even close to the pain of labor. Maybe I wasn’t racing hard enough.
But I did try to motivate myself to pedal harder by thinking, “Just imagine you’re late for picking up Sophie at daycare!”
The woman I ended up biking closest to was in her first race after giving birth seven months ago. When I was withering on the last lap, she noticed and told me, “Go momma!” It was weirdly motivating to join this club of stong mommas.
Then there was the fascination of watching the parenting on the sidelines. Sophie showed interest in a tiny baby, for the first time ever — she usually prefers older kids, but this time she wanted to watch the one-month-old on the sidelines. But she spent most of this race playing with her new favorite third-grader, Drew. Drew made faces at her, shared his robot with her, and, most impressively, noticed even before I did when she wandered under the tree where he was swinging. He quickly pulled his legs out of the way, alert and calm and expertly athletic, narrowly avoiding kicking her in the face.
Drew told me that his dad had declared it a “rule-free day.” His siblings were off having special days with their aunt and grandparents, so to make his day special, the dad said it was rule-free — but Drew told me there weren’t many rules worth breaking. He considered running around with his shirt off. He briefly tried pronouncing every word backwards. There wasn’t anything else he wanted to do. He had won his own youth-race, and his prize-bag included skittles, so that was the one rule he actually broke: he ate some candy without permission. But he didn’t even eat the whole bag.
Drew made me want to move into his parents house, so I can watch them and find out what they’re doing so well.
The other little boy on our picnic blanket was less impressive. He kept on having to be reminded not to harm the expensive racing bicycles all around us. He was smashing toys, getting annoyed and annoying. Drew just rolled his eyes and moved away. Such wisdom. When Drew was throwing a football to this other boy and other dad, Sophie wandered in, wanting to play too. None of them noticed, none of them passed her the ball — except for Drew.
I find myself getting incredibly judgemental. My friend’s kids are wonderful human beings, it seems, without exception. And the annoying kids all seem to have annoying parents. The four-year-old who tried to shove Sophie down a slide the other day: I already hate her mom. Ditto for the six-year-old at the previous cyclocross race who told me that girls shouldn’t play with cars, and Sophie’s name sounds like a dog’s name, mom’s shouldn’t work, and my house is too small. I found this hilarious and disturbing and also a signal that I never want to be friends with this six-year-old’s parents.
But what if I get judged by Sophie’s actions, just as I’m judging others? Sophie can be pushy and whiny and too-easily frustrated. She is only a year and a third, after all, she doesn’t yet have all the deep wisdom of eight-year-old Drew. She and I have a lot to work on together, still.
My friend Kelly is my current model mom because of how she stays calm through any of her own young daughter’s moodiness. What Kelly pointed out is that the problem is not that the kids themselves are mean or impatient or ill-mannered (they’re kids, after all), but that the parents aren’t intervening.
Sophie and I have a lot to live up to, and not just my goal of not being third-to-last in the next race.