There is a quote I’ve shared before that has always been a personal favorite of my mom’s, and since having kids, has become a personal favorite of mine.
“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” – Elizabeth Stone
Well, this week, my heart went rolling around on two wheels. My five-year-old learned how to ride his bike without training wheels and he pedaled with excited fury along the circuit of bike paths at our neighborhood park. I watched from a bench, and I could feel a little elastic string tugging at my chest growing longer and then shorter again as he pedaled farther away and back again on his loop.
Though always within eyesight, he was likely the farthest away from me he’s ever been when not in the care of another adult. It felt so foreign for him to have such independence – to see him, at a distance, fall, pick up his bike, and try again. As they often do, my emotions slapped me in the face, stinging my already cold cheeks. I was there with him, but not really. He was doing it on his own.
If you ask my husband (and well, really most people that know me) my emotions tend to swing on a pendulum, but there is nothing like seeing your own child hit a milestone to really get those babies swingin.
My mom used to (and likely still does) cry real, true emotion-filled tears at the conclusion of college championship basketball games, and it would be one of those cries where there was also a smile trying it’s damndest to appear. It was always at the end of close games, after the teams had waited, crouched, barely breathing on the sidelines to hold on to a victory or for some miracle to beat the buzzer. And I can tell you the precise moments when the tears came – after the clock ran down, when the cameras would switch back and forth from the one team which was jumping, waving those towels around, lifting each other up in the middle of the court, to the other team, shocked, teary-eyed, hugging, falling, laying head-in-hands on the hardwood.
In my limited experience as a mom, I can tell you that to be a parent is to be both teams in that moment. We wait, sometimes cheering, praying, hoping, sometimes barely breathing, for our kids in their big moments. Then, hot damn, they do it. They make it through school on the first day, or they say their first words, or they drop a deuce in a toilet, or they ride their bike without training wheels. And (Lord help me when this day comes) they drive. away. to. college. Half of you wants to shout and get cocky, “Bam! My kid just did that! In your face world!” and the other half of you wants curl up in the fetal position right there on the three-point line wishing you could rewind and add a few more seconds before the buzzer.
It’s a beautiful, but tough, thing – this being a parent. When the clock runs out on each day, and we’re exhausted from the tiny hard-won victories or cut-you-down losses, from our elastic hearts stretching out ever farther; I guess it’s enough to know, we left it all out there on the court. We played with heart. Rest up. The clock starts again tomorrow.