She isn’t perfect.
She gets into trouble. Some weeks are definitely better than others.
There have been plenty of times when I’m pretty sure I don’t know what I’m doing and almost as many when I think giving up is my best option.
Then I remember – she is my best option and my worst option. She is my only option.
“Can we keep riding?”
Those words were like music tonight. I’d only ever heard them once or twice – and never after riding three miles.
Usually, it’s this: “I hate riding the trail!”
Once, she went on and on about how much she despised the paved 3.6-mile recreation trail through town, blasting me for riding too far ahead, blasting the bugs for biting her skin, blasting the sun for making it hot, blasting the trees for making it shady …
This ride was one month into the making, though. We’ve been running in the evenings – not marathons, but constant jogs that combat lazy summer days with an elevated heart rate for 20 minutes. Stealing a page from my high school track coach’s book, her only requirement was to keep jogging for 20 minutes. The pace didn’t matter.
Little by little, the runs got easier for her. The first night was Hell. I almost reported myself to the Department of Social Services. She was hysterical. However, I knew she wasn’t going to die. I knew she was in pain, but she wasn’t going to die. If she had been near death, she wouldn’t have been able to scream “it hurts” at the top of her lungs repeatedly between sobs. Yes. If she had the lung capacity to do that, she was more than able to jog slower than I walk. So I pushed her.
But the next night was fine. Completely different. She knew what to expect and, perhaps more importantly, she knew she wasn’t going to die. Then our runs went on for 25 minutes. Then 30. Then she began to work on her form. Her pace increased. She was in considerably better shape.
Consequently, I shouldn’t have been all that shocked she wanted to ride her bike tonight. She’d looked forward to it all afternoon. Earlier this month, I started permitting her to ride around the neighborhood by herself – a big step for her, but a HUGE step for me. She was dying this afternoon to show me the places she’d been.
It started to rain after about a mile on the trail. We were still a short ride from home. I asked her if she wanted to turn around before it got too bad.
“Can we keep riding?”
Sweet, sweet music.
Of course we can, I thought. We can ride all night.
“You know we’re going to have to ride up that hill at the end if we go that far, right?”
Kalista has this thing for doing something until it gets slightly difficult, then stopping. I figured her plan was to ride to the bottom of the hill – which I’d seen her get off her bike and walk too many times before – and turn around.
“That’s okay,” she sang.
“Do you just want to ride to the end of the trail?” I asked with a bit of disbelief.
“Yes, sir,” she said. “I think it’d be really cool if we went to the fountain.”
The fountain is about a mile after the trail. I was astounded.
By the time we hit the end, the sputtering rain had stopped and I thought for sure we’d dodged anything terrible. I was really, really glad my 8-year-old had convinced me to tough it out. It ended up being a nice night for a ride, I thought as we rested by the fountain uptown.
Twenty minutes later, I was in Hell.
The clouds started emptying their contents five minutes earlier and hadn’t stopped. I didn’t care about hitting mud puddles because I already looked like I’d gone for a swim in a 1920s bathing suit. I could have peed myself and no one would have noticed. Then I began to feel saltwater in my eyes.
“Kalista, it’s really wet out here,” I shouted up to her above the rain, wind and thunder. We’d been “racing” – and she was in the lead.
“Yeah, I know,” she said with genuine enthusiasm. “But you’re still having fun, right?”
What was wrong with my child? Like a light bulb just turned on, she’d suddenly become a person who enjoyed physical activity. Not just a person who enjoyed physical activity, but physical activity in the rain. She was actually smiling!
For a second, I resented her. This shit was her fault. If she would have just been like I thought she’d be and taken me up on my offer to turn around a mile or two from home, I wouldn’t be in agony. I wouldn’t be certain I’m going to be sick tomorrow. She’s the reason, I thought, I’m on my bike in a terrible rain storm for the first time since college.
Wait a minute, I pondered.
Back in college, I had no worries. I didn’t care about my phone frying or getting sick. I didn’t worry if a car would hit me. I didn’t think about dripping through the house when I got home. I didn’t consider waiting it out under an overpass. I enjoyed riding in the rain.
No, my daughter isn’t a perfect angel. She talks back sometimes, forgets to turn off her night light in the morning and even lies to avoid punishment. Yes, she sometimes needs motivated to get off the couch and go outside and play.
But so do I.
And if God gives me patience and I give her time, she’ll eventually get most of it right.
God, give me patience.