A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, my husband Jake and I used to ride motorcycles together. It was something fun we did together, each of us astride our own Kawasaki and Suzuki 500 ccs, racing up and down the twisty back roads of our rural county.
I bought a motorbike first as a hedge against moving from New York City to rural Virginia, figuring that if life in the quiet country bore down on me, I could always jump on my crotch rocket and go for a ride. Many of the roads around here don’t even have yellow lines running down the middle of them. Traffic consists largely of scampering squirrels and rednecks driving jacked up Fords. Jake wasn’t wild about me riding solo so he quickly got a motorbike and a license in that order. We invested in motorcycle jackets, gloves and full-shield helmets. One time, we rode to West Virginia, stopping for an ice cream cone and a lemonade at a disheveled 1950s-style drive-in along the way.
I have fond memories of that time, when it was just Jake and I enjoying ourselves, our new marriage, new house, new lives, and new bikes together.
That was two kids ago. I haven’t been on a bike since finding out I was pregnant with June. Jake has ridden only occasionally since her birth. Once she came along, the bikes remained parked in the shed.
We kept figuring, one of these days we’ll be able to ride. But between Jake’s military deployments, a move, and a second pregnancy, that day never arrived, especially for me, Diaper Wrangler in Chief.
The bikes continued to sit in the shed. And here’s something they never tell you when you go buy a motorcycle: If you don’t ride regularly, the bike won’t start. On the rare occasion one of us actually had time to take it for a spin, the bike inevitably would not run. So we pawned off one of the bikes to Jake’s brother, who was going through a divorce and had his own issues to sort through via the open road.
We had one bike left. We knew we had to get rid of it, but we kept putting it off. Even though we never rode it, and it wouldn’t even start when we tried to ride it, jettisoning that bike felt like jettisoning a piece of our former selves, the selves that weren’t so damn responsible, encumbered and safe. The selves that didn’t always worry about sunscreen application, bug bite protection, adequate hydration and shoes that fastened properly.
What to do with the bike became a stark rendering of how boring parenthood can make you – everything you do, every action you take is weighed against how safe and prudent it is. It’s only a matter of time before going to the movies without a sweater will seem like the height of wild rebellion.
You probably know where this is going: We recently sold the bike.
Who were we kidding? We’ll never ride again. That time on the bikes was a mere sliver of our lives, never to be repeated again except for maybe when we’re fat and middle aged and straddling one of those chubby, three wheel motorbikes you see retirees tooling around on together, equipped with His-n-Her headsets.
At least this way our girls will never have to say, “Remember when we had a mom and dad? Remember when they died in that cataclysmic motorcycle accident?” See, this counts as a perk when you’re a parent — you remove the possibility of dying while having fun for the sake of your children.
Parenthood, like life, is a constant process of change and growth.
Some of it is rewarding, like watching your children deeply comprehend that sticking dimes in an electrical socket is really not a good idea. Some of it, like getting rid of the bike because you know you’ll never be young and free again, is a little depressing.
But at the end of the day, even the sad parts are rewarding because when you’re parent, you stop thinking so much about yourself (you don’t have a choice), and that ultimately is a good thing. Boy, do I sound like a parent.