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Meandering Thoughts on Motherhood and Mountain Biking

I have two daughters. The Artist-in-Residence is now 18 years old. The Little Boss is now 14 months old. The Artist-in-Residence and I are still in the adolescent phase, which can sometimes be more intense than the infancy or toddler phase of parenting.

And then I went and decided to start all over again. Several things had to stop: drinking, partying and biking -- among other important matters, of course. I knew all that was coming.

After pregnancy and 14-months of breastfeeding (and still breastfeeding) the Little Boss, I have finally been reunited with one of my great loves. Yes, mountain biking.

I have two mountain bikes. The First Love is a hard-tail and has been with me for 16 years now. Sexy Sadie is a full-suspension, new addition to my stable.

On that first trail ride the other day with Sexy Sadie, I shivered with the realization that it had been a long, long time since I felt I was being true to myself. Being a mother entails a lot of self-sacrifice. I don't contest that. But to be honest, I think that this part of the job description is a dangerously over-rated virtue, so much so that it borders on self-effacement. Not because little ones are small dictators bent on running your life, but because this kind of love is big and unfathomable.

Motherhood, or parenthood for that matter, often asks us to give up things so we can properly nourish a child and see to it that she or he becomes a person who can live, love and laugh in a difficult world. Often the demands are inversely proportional to the size of the child. Some parents are better than others at striking a balance between parenting one's offspring and nourishing one's self. I know and admire several mothers who run, bike and swim or work, write and paint through their parenting days.

Some years ago a friend of mine, whose son was a toddler at the time, asked me if I was still writing poetry. I said something lame like sometimes but not really. He said he wasn't writing anymore because as a father he had "lost the solitude." I didn't want to say it out loud but I knew exactly what he meant. Saying "I know" was tantamount to saying "I concede."But the weighty truth of what he said stayed with me for years.

I admit there are days when I feel suffocated; when I catch myself foolishly believing that the only valid things in my life are motherhood and work and that anything besides that is selfish or a waste of time. There are days when i feel resentful; when I think that if I didn't have a baby my life would be so much easier. But now that I'm raising my second daughter I know that as she grows older the hours will feel less crowded.  I know there will eventually be time for solitude or time to be with friends without rushing off to work or to breastfeed, all apologies. My friend, for one, is writing poetry again.

When I'm hitting a technical portion of a single track trail, the best moments are when bike, body, mind roll over the drops, roots and rocks seamlessly -- a little roughly perhaps, but in unison. I think the bliss of mountain biking comes not just from the satisfaction of successfully riding a gnarly section, but of being fully present when you do it. That's how I want to mother my daughters. Not divided and not blaming them for the things I can't do. It took a morning out on the trails with my bicycle and bike buddies -- a morning of doing something for myself -- to show me that. If I'm to be a better parent I have to do the things I love and not only the things I think I HAVE to do.

Makes me want to burst out singing, I once was lost but now am found.


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