By ROBIN O’BRYANT
Aubrey and Emma, my seven and five-year-olds, have gotten quite good at riding their bicycles. They hop on their bikes and ride around our yard and make laps up and down the driveway. But after several days of circling the trampoline, they wanted to branch out and ride their bike to a park less than half a mile from our house. They aren’t big enough to go by themselves so I borrowed my best friend’s bike which has a baby seat attached for Sadie.
I buckled Sadie into her seat and spoke to her sisters, “I’m going to ride on the center line and y’all stay to my right, okay? If you don’t listen and do exactly what I say we will come home. Got it?”
The girls nodded their blond heads and jumped on their bikes. I looked up and down our street and waited until there were no cars in sight to yell, “Go!” We successfully crossed our first street and rode our bikes down a quiet side street headed towards the park. I pedaled slowly to wait for them. Emma wobbled a bit on her bike and looked up at me.
“Don’t look at me Emma! Watch where you are going!” I said as she veered off the road and rode into a ditch and a huge mud puddle.
“I’m okay!” She yelled, dragging her hot pink bicycle out of the ditch and coating her new shoes with mud.
I sighed and waited. We had two more intersections to cross before we got to the park and I was beginning to think this wasn’t the best idea. Emma climbed back on her bike.
“Alright, let’s go!” We had moved approximately 20 feet when I saw a car turn onto the street ahead of us, on the opposite side of the road. It was still several blocks away but I told the girls, “Stay to my right!” I figured if I kept them pinned between me, riding down the center line, and the side of the road, the worst thing that could happen is that someone would end up in a ditch again. But as I yelled for the girls to stay right, Emma swerved hard to the left, crossing over the center line behind me and yelling, “LIKE THIS MOMMA?”
“NO!!! YOUR OTHER RIGHT! EMMA!! GET BACK ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD!!!”
I could feel hairs on my head turning gray and I’m sure I shaved a good three years off my life.
“Get off your bike and come over here!” Emma jumped off her bike and walked back to the right side of the road. The car turned off the street before it even reached us.
“From now on, just get off your bike and stand on the side of the road if you see a car coming,” I instructed. It should be noted that at this point I could still see our driveway and should have taken the opportunity to turn around and go home, but did I? You know I didn’t.
We pressed forward, Aubrey and Emma hopping off their bikes every time a car was within sight. We crossed a busy intersection successfully and finally, we could see the Promised Land.
I rode down to a low spot where I could ride my bike across the grass and rode as quickly as I could across the small hill. I stopped and turned to make sure Aubrey and Emma were getting out of the road and saw a truck turn onto the street behind them. My bike was now sitting on a small incline and as I turned to yell at the big girls to get off their bikes and walk the rest of the way, the weight of my preschooler on the back of the bike, combined with the bike’s position on the hill, joined forces and the bike began to fall sideways. Because it was so heavy on the back, I couldn’t stop it from falling and it knocked me sideways as it fell. Sadie cried from her seat (which curved around her, thankfully protecting her arms, legs and her head) as I pulled myself out from under the bike and lifted it back up.
Aubrey and Emma rushed to my side to check on Sadie and me, and the truck slowed as it passed the spectacle on the side of the road. I prayed they wouldn’t stop to check on me—the only thing more humiliating than falling off a parked bike with your baby strapped to it would be acknowledging what just happened with a perfect stranger.