I took the girls on a bike ride yesterday.
Along the way, we spot an empty playground. Up here in Oregon? There are playgrounds filled with hard, sharp, metal playground equipment like I remember from my own childhood. At this particular playground? There is not a primary plastic color to be found.
There is a set of swings, a bank of 5 see-saws, and a tall metal slide. All circa 1974.
Maj sees danger everywhere. Kallan runs off to play.
After just a few minutes, I call Maj over.
“Oh my god, Maj . . . stop yelling at your sister! I have things under control. I do not need you to help me.”
“OK, but you do need help. You are not saying the things that I am saying, so someone has to step in and say those things. If you are not going to do your job, someone has to do it.”
“Yes. You’re welcome.”
“Babe, come sit with me for a minute,” and I pat the ground next to me.
Maj walks over and sits, “OK, but do you see her? She is walking down the slide! She is not holding on! She is just standing straight and tall and walking down the slide! It is a huge tall dangerous slide and she is walking down it and you are saying nothing. That is so dangerous. She could be killed! But do you care? No, you just want to talk to me about yelling too much.”
She turns and glares at me, “Yeah, because clearly this is the bigger emergency. And when Kallan is dead? And someone wants to know how that happened? You can explain all about how you had to lecture me about how I should not be safe.”
“Jesus, Maj. Take a breath. There is no one else at this park. It’s just the three of us. No one cares if Kallan is walking on the slide. Let it go.”
“This is not just about rules, Mother. Although it is COMPLETELY against the rules to walk on a slide. HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THIS?”
I hold up my cell phone, “Listen, if Kallan falls and breaks all of her arms and legs, I will call 911 and they will come and get her. And then maybe I will get a small lecture from a doctor about letting Kallan walk down a slide. But guess what?”
“After Kallan’s casts come off and we head out one fine future day to play at the park? I am so going to let her walk down a slide again if she wants to walk down a slide.”
“So basically, you are saying that you want Kallan dead.”
“Yes, Maj. That is correct. Soon after Kallan was born, I realized what a tragic mistake I had made. So my evil plan? Is to let Kallan play all wildly dangerously at the playground until she is dead. And then it will be just the two of us again, babe.”
I swing my arm around Maj and give her a big squeeze, “Just the two of us. Like it was always meant to be.”
“You are not even funny, Mother.”
“I should probably ask her to take off her bicycle helmet.”
“So not funny.”
Kallan runs up, “Maj! Come do the see-saws with me!”
That goes about as well as you might expect.
And then Kallan is standing in the middle of the see-saw, trying to gauge how far she can walk in one direction before the balance shifts.
And here is Maj, “I could have been killed!”
“I get it, Maj. She should not have leaped from the see-saw while you were still in the air. However, the lucky thing? Is that you have legs.”
“You have legs. Legs you used to stop the death. And then you were just standing and crabby. Not dead at all.”
“You never care when she tries to kill me.”
Time to head out. Kallan is in the lead, Maj second, and I bring up the rear. This last stretch of our bike ride is the only portion of our ride that is not a bike path, a ½ mile stretch down a quiet tree-lined street. To the parking lot where we left the car.
Here is Maj . . .
WATCH OUT FOR CARS PULLING OUT!
STAY TO THE RIGHT!
IF YOU DON’T SPEED UP, I AM GOING TO PASS YOU!
DON’T GO SO FAR AHEAD! YOU WILL LOSE US!
STAY TO THE RIGHT!
ACK! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU CAN’T JUST STOP LIKE THAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
I pull up behind the two girls, and they are both yelling at me . . .
From Maj, “MOTHER, I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED! DID YOU SEE WHAT SHE DID? I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED!”
From Kallan, “Mom, tell her to stop yelling at me! I know how to ride a bicycle. She is all crazy and yelling at me for nothing at all.”
“OK, Kallan. If you need to stop, you need to get off to the side of the road, right? Your sister should not need to swerve to avoid you.”
“And Maj? You do not get to yell anymore. At all. If you yell again? I am going to knock on one of these doors and give someone a free bike. And then you will be walking. Do you understand me?”
“Geez, you don’t have to be so crabby.”
“Do you understand me?”
“Yes, OK. No more safety. Got it.”
We pedal the short remaining distance to the car. Pile our bikes into the back of the minivan. Climb into the car. Crank the air conditioner.
Maj checks her seatbelt to be sure it is snug, “That was fun! We should go bike riding every day.”
There is silence in the car.
Maj reaches forward for the bottle of hand sanitizer, “What?”