Holding my son accountable, for my mistakes

Friday, September 6, 2013

As Declan has grown physically, so too has his comfort zone. More and more he pesters me to play outside with his friends or go across the street to the park without me. My comfort zone with his independence is not growing proportionally.

Declan and I bumped into one of his fellow second-grade classmates recently at the park, whom we discovered had rode his bike a couple of blocks to the park by himself.

As the two played together I sat panting in the shade, not necessarily enjoying the 95 degree temperature we have been experiencing lately, wondering to myself why I wasn't comfortable with letting Declan walk across the street to the park by himself, let alone ride his bike. As usual, I looked to my own youthful experiences for answers.

I spent all of my grade school years in a small town in North Dakota, approximately the same size as McCook. When I wasn't wrestling or playing basketball, which began in a competitive fashion in second grade for us, I spent my afternoons at a city park just a few blocks from our house.

On most days there were typically half-a-dozen of us kids either at the park or circling the neighborhood on our bikes.

As I watched Declan frolic in a familiar fashion with his friend, I couldn't help but wonder why I looked at him with such worry, almost as if he were made of glass, yet I remember being so independent at that age during my own youth.

One afternoon during my fourth grade year a junior high school aged boy rolled into our park on a motorized three wheeler. We were working on a wooden fort in a ditch neighboring the park, when he came by to inspect our craftsmanship. After we spent several minutes praising his three wheeler, he agreed to allow each of us to have a turn riding it.

I was last in the rotation and the two boys before me took their turns with uneventful results. They followed the older boy's instructions and stayed safely confined to the dried up ice skating rink located at one end of the park.

I had never driven a three-wheeler, or a motorbike of any sort for that matter, so I had to contain my excitement as the elder boy ran me through the operating basics.

"This is the clutch, turn this to give it gas and this is the brake, but as you can see it's broke so you have to let it coast to a stop," he said, pointing at several areas of the bike before ending at a hand brake that was missing a brake cable. And with that I took off.

I made several trips around of the ice rink with the wind in my face and the engine of the three wheeler roaring underneath me, it was like nothing I had experienced before. I remember thinking the black seat of the motorized trike, even though it had a rather large tear in it which caused the interior to balloon inside out, was the most comfortable seat I had ever sat on.

The ride was far too enjoyable to end after a couple quick circles in the rink, so I promptly ramped over the edge of the ice rink instead of rolling to a stop as I was instructed. I was surprised with the ease of how the trike overcame the dirt mound bordering the perimeter of the ice rink.

I decided to make one quick trip around the slide before returning the motor bike to its owner.

I gunned the engine of the three wheeler to drown out the yelling from the junior high boy who was chasing after me, unaware that in a moment's time I would be learning the value of having working brakes.

As I attempted to circle around my targeted slide, I discovered that when you make a sharp turn with a three wheeler on gravel, without slowing down, it doesn't work.

The three wheeler simply continued straight forward into the brick wall bordering the opposite side of the gravel alley behind the slide. The impact smashed the front wheel of the trike into the engine, which was mounted below that quite comfortable seat, and my left hand was scraped between the handle bars and the wall.

I jumped off the immobilized three wheeler and began rattling out a thousand-word-a-minute apology to the junior high boy, who completely ignored me as his attention turned to the damage to the three wheeler and the wrath it would provoke from his father.

Right on cue, I looked up to see my mother driving down the alley in her pickup truck, approaching the scene.

My mother was nothing shy of superhuman as a parent when I was growing up. She could hear the lid being lifted off a cookie jar from two blocks away; accurately recite the exact route I had taken on my walk home from school by examining residuals left in my shoes; and predict with frightening consistency when I was up to no good.

I was not at all surprised by her uncanny timing that day, but I knew the pain I was experiencing from my hand was going to be difficult to hide. I looked down to see I was bleeding from scrapes on all four of my knuckles and quickly stashed the hand behind my back as my mother rolled down the window to her pickup.

"I'm heading to the store, you wanna stay here or come with me?" she questioned as her gaze turned to the three boys attempting to bend the front wheel of the trike back into place.

"Stay here," I replied, as calmly as I could muster.

My mother's gaze shot back to me.

"You stay off that three wheeler," she stated sternly, as I nodded my head in compliance.

"I mean it!" she repeated with a stern tone, indicating she expected a response.

"No problem," I replied shakily, with sweat beading up on my forehead as I thought to myself, "ain't nobody riding that three wheeler anymore."

I could tell her spider sense was tingling, she scanned the scene several times before finally driving away, slowly.

After repeating my apologies and promising to give my entire piggy bank savings to the junior high boy, I raced home to clean my wounds before my mother returned from the market.

Declan may not be made of glass, but I think I have a pretty good idea of the silliness he's capable of. The longer I can keep that bottled up, the better it will likely be for both of us.

View 1 comment
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • love stories about kids.

    -- Posted by dennis on Fri, Sep 6, 2013, at 1:46 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: