But my poor choices put him at risk in the first place.

It was a gorgeous summer Saturday morning. I had originally planned to leave Babyboy with Hubby and take Babygirl with me to visit a friend and her new babies. But, Hubby had a number of broadcast assignments at the stadium, and he had to leave early.

So as I ran around the house doing laundry, preparing food, cleaning dishes, potty-cheering, dressing the kids, and cleaning kitty litter, I wondered what to do with the unexpectedly free morning:

We need groceries… It’s a beautiful day… I’d love some exercise… Hey! Let’s walk to the little grocery nearby! I’ll take the kids in the double stroller!

The kids were very good all morning: they used the potty, they ate breakfast, and they didn’t pummel each other. I felt good about taking them on a little outing.

The kids thought it was a great idea. We got our shoes on and headed out. I pulled the double baby jogger stroller out of the garage.

But Babyboy refused to get in it. “I’m not a baby anymore. I can ride my bike to the store,” he insisted, and he pulled his bike out.

Oh, goodness, I thought. I’m not sure.

I wavered. He’s just starting to ride. He’s very tentative. We have to remind him to look both ways to cross the street. He rides so, so slowly…

But then I thought… We have taken him on many rides around the block, and even to a playground that is actually much farther than the grocery store. And, he rides so, so slowly.

Babyboy put on his helmet. He was totally, completely, 100% determined to go no other way than on his bike.

I made the call. I kept thinking about how he’d ridden his bike all the way to that playground about a mile away, and he was fine…I said, “Okay!” and got out the single jogger stroller for Babygirl.

And we were fine, for almost the whole way. He rode slow. Painfully slow. He wanted to stop and examine every street sign, sewer cover, drain, cigarette butt… I realized it was going to take us forty-five minutes to go a quarter of a mile.

He was very good about stopping at every street crossing and looking both ways. He struggled with pushing his bike across the street, and managed to catch his legs on the pedals and get scratched a few times, but overall, it was uneventful…

Until we were almost there. We had to cross one more street, a busy one-way double-lane route. I wasn’t worried about it, because it’s a heavily used crosswalk with a traffic signal. All we had to do was press the cross button and wait.

Babyboy approached the crosswalk slowly, so slowly. I was a few feet behind him with the stroller. Babygirl asked me a question and I leaned down to listen.

Then, it was everything all at once; and yet also, in slow motion.

A car honked, tires screeched-  Holy shit

Babyboy was riding right into the crosswalk, into traffic. He wasn’t looking either way, only staring directly ahead at the grocery store across the street.

I screamed, “Stop, stop, stop!”, let go of the stroller and leapt and grabbed and pulled him by the back of his shirt, pulled him right off the back of his seat. The bike wobbled and toppled onto the road. Two lanes of traffic dead stopped.

Babygirl had kept rolling forward and hit a parked car, I didn’t see how hard. Her snacks were spilled, but she seemed okay, was calling for me and asking, “What happened? Mommy, what happened?”

Some people on the other side of the street trotted over. “Are you okay? That was really scary.”

Babyboy seemed stunned, but he was fine. I was…  just sick, sick to my stomach, with that mix of fear and adrenaline and shock and, more than anything, overwhelming mortification.

What the hell had I been thinking, letting my five-year-old kid ride his bike on these busy streets? 

“We’re fine, we’re fine, thanks, appreciated…” Somehow, I brushed Babyboy off, gathered the bike, the stroller, and, walking the bike now, we made it across the street. All the cars were still stopped, waiting.  The pedals caught Babyboy in the legs again as we walked, and he collapsed on the sidewalk, crying. I wasn’t too far from that, myself, but wanted to get the heck out of there. I hugged him and again, thought:

What the hell had I been thinking, letting my five-year-old kid ride his bike on these busy streets?

But, when he was cheerful again, we somehow made it into the grocery, and picked out a few key essentials for dinner. I let Babyboy choose the main course (swordfish and mussels, FYI, and he ate extra helpings of both later that evening!). I let both kids choose produce, in an effort to make the whole trip a happier one, and erase that ugly experience.

Of course, we weren’t going to try to ride back. We would leave the bike at the store and he would walk back if that’s what we had to do. But, I first called my mother, knowing that she’s rescued us from many a jam… And she rescued us from this one, too. She lives nearby, and she drove to the store in her SUV and got us. The kids were super-excited to see her. The change in plans was very interesting to them, and, probably, a huge relief as well. We crammed the stroller and the bike in the back, and she took us all home.

Thanks, mom!

I had originally been planning on taking the kids somewhere else more fun in the afternoon, but, I felt completely wiped out, depressed… morose, even. I kept re-living the whole thing. I felt edgy, nervous, irritable. I found myself snapping at the kids, and then giving them big spontaneous hugs. Crazy. I’m losing my shit. I finally texted Hubby to just get home. Just get home.

When he pulled up, the kids and I were in the backyard. I told him the story, and then just cried, cried and cried. We said a prayer of thanks…

And we’ll only be riding in empty parking lots and on paved trails for a long, long time.

 

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