Look Ma, no hands!

I sort of learned to ride my bike with no hands this week. I say sort of, because it’s really only been a few moments of what felt like flying, nothing mastered, but a sense of progress anyway. Seeing as I’ve been riding a bike for over 30 years, any new skill at this point is remarkable and surprising.

The urge to let go of the handlebars came during an unusually long bike ride that offered up a unique combination of mania (the vineyards! the ocean!), seething neck pain and moments of boredom (did I mention it was a very long ride?).

As the miles ticked along, I realized that riding with no hands required both supportive internal and external conditions. Internally, there was a certain sense of balance (leaning too far back or too far forward just didn’t work) and a commitment to the process–a fearlessness, as silly as it sounds. Meanwhile, the perfect combination of a level path, no wind, and a lack of oncoming bicyclists also seemed an essential part of the process.

I have been riding with no hands when it comes to special needs parenting for some time now, ever since our huge move has had my attention elsewhere–getting a job, a place to live, a dog, converting recipes into metrics and Celsius. With so much to take in, I took my hands off the handlebars, trusting that the people around me would keep us safe (a correct hunch), that my mom detectors would sound even if 99% of me was caught up with figuring out the recycling rules of my new homeland, that I would take the handlebars again when it was time.

I have been here before, and I know many other parents of children who need special medical, behavioral and recreational support who have too. We’d like to think of ourselves as able to be fully focused, fully on, 24/7/365, and so would the people who help us. But we can’t. Sometimes we just need to let go. Sometimes for a day, sometimes longer.

Call it what you will–neglect, self-care, or coasting. Whether we beat ourselves up over it or celebrate it, I think it is a major part of this parenting process, and one that is rarely referred to. Society likes to label us as either “disengaged” or “super mom.” These labels hurt us all. Life is not so binary.

I’m glad I took the break. We got to develop relationships with new teachers and others without having them feel like we were constantly evaluating them. And now that there’s less “new” and more “life” in my “new life,” I am better able to lean forward, grab the bars, and hunker down for the next part of the journey.

I would love to hear from others about how they toggle between holding on and letting go of responsibility and engagement. I think we owe it to ourselves and those too afraid to both take the handlebars or to let go of them to talk more openly about how we sustain ourselves.

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About Cristin L.

Earthling, pilgrim, peace warrior and special needs parent
This entry was posted in special needs parenting and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Look Ma, no hands!

  1. I always think of the geese analogy. They take turns being the leader flying first using all of their strength …and the they let go and let a less tired leader take over and continue the route. I think this is a lesson ..in surrounding ourselves with other capable people – of knowing when we need a break and taking it – Miss you Cristin!!

  2. Debra W says:

    Beautiful metaphor and post, as always. This summer I’m letting go by scheduling only a few camp weeks for my kids and letting them explore what it’s like to be at home. It’s a bit scary for me (How will I get my work done! What if I can’t give them enough attention! What if they watch too much TV!) but it feels like a growing experience for all of us. Right now they are in the basement practicing their musical instruments as I enjoy a few minutes to myself to read your blog. Thanks, as always, for writing. xoxo

    • Cristin L. says:

      How is it working out? It’s nice to experiment with not pushing ourselves so hard. Now that I’m not in the US, I can also see how American parenting is really pushing parents to avoid downtime for kids. Not judging whether that is good for kids or not, but I can surely say it makes it hard on parents.

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