Everything you say to your children becomes a lesson of some sort. I’ve inadvertently taught my boys some bad things over the years. More than anything I’ve taught them bad words. I’ll admit it; Keegan knows how to use a few key swear words with just the right inflection at just the right moment. Wyatt calls our dog stupid in a very matter of fact manner. I thought I always muttered that quietly under my breath. Nope. Nothing gets by them.
But this week there’s one teachable moment that’s sticking with me for all the right reasons. I taught Keegan to be supportive and the funny thing is, I wasn’t even trying to “teach” him anything. I was just being honest. It all started on a bike ride home after work one night. I’d stopped to pick up Wyatt from his preschool near Washburn High School in Minneapolis. Wyatt and I then crept up Nicollet Avenue to pick up Keegan from Hwa Rang Do. It’s about a 6-block ride UP HILL almost the entire way. Then we rode west on Diamond Lake Road toward home… another long, steady incline that always tests my will to stick with this commuter challenge. I’m not kidding. It’s got to be a mile of riding in a stand-up position. My thighs quiver. My lungs burn. And my ego is totally blown. I feel defeated and out of shape every time I make this trip. On this night Keegan was in a mood. He was complaining about everything, especially how slow I was going. “We must be in a traffic jam, Wyatt, because we are going reaaallly slow,” he said in a mocking manner to his brother. “Mom, can I just get out and walk, I want to walk. MOM?!” I’m thinking, “Seriously kid, BACK OFF!”
You should know there have been times, in the car, when I’ve lost it on my children in a screaming fit. I have been known to stoop to their level and try to yell louder and make idle threats to get them to behave or stop disrespecting me. As I write this I know how ridiculous that is. But in the moment, well, I know there are parents out there who understand.
Back on the hellacious hill: I wanted to tell Keegan to kiss off… in a PG way, of course. Really. But I couldn’t because I had no air in my lungs. I managed to choke out a simple response to his complaints and taunts, “Keegan: this… is… really… hard work. (pause) Maybe you… could be… supportive. Cheer me on?” He didn’t respond. He usually doesn’t. But he always hears me. That night he filed away my comments in the part of his brain he likes to use when he wants to be sweet. And when he’s sweet I fall in love with him all over again.
On Wednesday night the hills were coupled with a strong head wind. I’m loving this October weather but the wind has been a joke. Wait until it’s paired with snow. Ugh. That’s a blog for another day. As I lugged Keegan and Wyatt up Diamond Lake road I hit the slope where my quads usually give out and I have to stand up to tap into the calves and glutes. I’m pumping at a heave-ho, jerky pace. It feels like we’re hardly moving when suddenly Keegan starts to yell from behind, “You can do it mom! Nice work! I believe in you, mom! Wyatt, mom’s working really hard. Good job mom! I’m a believer, mom!” I had the hugest grin on my face. I yelled back, “Are you cheering me on?! Do you believe!?” And we kept rallying back and forth the whole way. A man on his bike passed us. He was wearing headphones but he could hear Keegan. The man turned and laughed and with a big smile yelled, “That’s awesome! I could use some of that!”
Keegan’s cheers of support maybe lasted five minutes. A tiny fraction of one day. But those moments were deep. Do you know what I mean? Those brief but impactful experiences that are so meaningful you actually block out the world to take it in and your inner voice says, “Oh my God life is wonderful. These children are the best gift I’ll ever know. Please don’t let me forget this moment.” I learned a great lesson on the road this week. Send your children the right messages and you could be rewarded immensely… when you least expect it.
Angela Keegan Benson is the Assistant News Director at WCCO-TV and a mother of two. On August 1, 2011 she began her quest to live one full year as a bike commuter. Follow along as she figures out how to mesh the cycling culture with the demands of parenthood and an affinity for 4-inch heels. And yes, she’s committed to sticking it out through February storms. For more Cycling In The Cities, follow @Angela_Keegan on Twitter.