When I wake my kids up around 5 a.m. and move them, still in their pajamas, into the car, they just smile sleepily and welcome the adventure. The long car-ride to the bike-race is actually easier while they sleep. That’s when Ben & I can listen together to the podcasts I usually hear all alone during my own commute: This American Life, Unfictional, Radiolab, New Yorker Fiction… Once Soph wakes up, she grows impatient with hearing things she can’t understand, so we switch to music and games of “I spy,” but even then, car-time conversations can be even better than dinner-time conversations. Thanks to lots of practice, my kids are great road-trippers. I’m probably the grumpiest in my family about long car rides.
It’s often still cold around 7:30 am, when we arrive at that weekend’s race location. So I let the kids play in the car while Ben goes off to register and scout the course and whatever it is he does.
We get to the start-line in time to take his arm-warmers and cheer him on.
My kids bring their own bikes, but, really, they mostly play with simple toys: build a house for ants out of sticks, clamber on whatever boulders cluster around the start-line of the mountain-bike course, jump-rope maniacally, organize a complicated fantasy world with the other kids, vroom a few small cars down a hill… We will be at the park for many hours. They find things to do.
If I’m lucky — and I usually am — there will be a 9-year-old girl who wants to take charge of watching Sophie. That way, I can do the water hand-ups to Ben every 30 minutes or so, as he comes round the course having finished one water-bottle and thirsty for another. I’m getting adept at passing water to someone speeding by at over 20 mph, while also keeping an eye on one kid — but I’m less adept at doing this while watching two kids.
I learn something at every race. At the most recent race, I learned that if “Muscle Milk” brand is passing out free chocolate-milk-ish protein smoothies, the kids will enjoy drinking it, but Everett shouldn’t be left unsupervised. It turns out that Muscle Milk is actually an astounding hair-styling product for toddlers.
At least I know to laugh at this.
The kids know how to behave on a winner’s podium.
And they know how to enjoy the ride home, covered in Muscle Milk and the dirt of playing outside all day.