The boys asked today if we could go to Ben Franklin, a variety store/mini-Walmart place about half a mile from our house.
Since I had time and since they asked, I said yes. And since it's such a beautiful day (pushing 70 and sunny!), I said, "Let's ride our bikes."
Three-year-old Boy #4 asked if he could ride his bike too, and after some quick deliberation, I said yes. He's never been beyond our neighbor's house on his own bike, but this kid has some skills. He's been handling the small green two-wheeled bike with training wheels like a pro. So we strapped on helmets and were off.
Boy #4 was thrilled with his new indepedence -- but slow. So I sent Boys #1 & 2 on ahead of us and lingered with #3 and 4.
Understand here: I purposefully plotted out the easiest route to the store. We could have headed directly West, but that takes us up a HUGE hill and then back home down same huge hill. So instead, we headed North, then West. It's a route we've taken many times before with the kids at various levels of experience.
And yet...I forgot about the hill.
Boy #4 was about halfway down the hill (not as steep as the huge one, but still not exactly a gentle incline) when I realized HE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO USE THE BRAKES.
He picked up speed and was getting nervous. He called out to me, but all I could do was tell him, "You're doing a good job. Just keep steering."
He managed to avoid the daycare kids -- most of them his own age -- who were drawing chalk figures on the sidewalk. The two daycare ladies, I'm sure, thought I was an incompetent parent.
Boy #4, meanwhile, managed to stay on his bike. I worried a bit about the railroad track at the bottom of the hill, but if he could just hold it straight, I reasoned, he'd be all right. A bit shaken up, maybe, but all right.
Then he began to lose control. His hands started to wiggle and the green bike swerved from side to side.
He's not going to make it, I thought. And sure enough, the next thing I knew, he fell.
Not his-bike-tipped-to-the-side-and-he-fell-to-the-ground, but head-over-heels, tumbling-like-rag-doll, oh-my-god-that's-my-baby fell.
His bike crashed on to the train tracks ahead of him. My baby lay face down on grass and sidewalk. The daycare ladies, I'm sure, were clucking their tongues and shaking their heads.
I ran to him, scooped him up and tried to comfort him as he wailed a horrible, hurt, high-pitched wail. Remarkably, he seemed rather unscathed (well, except for the horrified cry). His upper lip was skinned maybe just a little, but other than that, my little boy, who had no business riding down that hill, was all in one piece.
What was I thinking?????
In hindsight, I can see how having four kids worked against me in this case. We've taken that route so many times with so many kids that it never occurred to me that it might be dangerous. And I've had so many little ones amaze me, over and over, with their physical skill and prowess, that when my three-year-old asked to bike to the store a half mile from our house, I didn't even hesitate.
In hindsight, I grossly over-estimated his skills. I'm all about giving kids a chance to test their limits, but before saying yes, I should have made sure I had a good grasp of his skill level. In hindsight, his biking around the house without incident DOES NOT mean he's ready to bike down a hill!
I parked his bike at a nearby bike rack and loaded Boy #4 in the seat strapped to the back of my bike. (In hindsight, where he should have been all along.) We continued on to Ben Franklin, with Boy #4 crying the whole way. Boy #2, though, is smart. He bought #4 a lollipop. And that was the end of the crying.
I went back later and picked up the bike, and #4 seems no worse for the wear. He's even managed to tell his story to both his dad, the babysitter and the plumber without any obvious trauma. So maybe he'll be OK.
Me? I'm a bit of a wreck. I just keeping thinking about Denise Schipani's new blog, Confessions of a Mean Mommy. Yesterday she wrote about the need to fail your child. I keep wondering if this is what she was talking about.
Somehow, I think it's not.
'Fess up! What's your horrible Mom moment?