These days we’ve been doing a lot of biking out in the laneway, now that the warm weather is here. Naomi is on Caleb’s old balance bike, and it’s hilarious. She is very, very slow, although still enthusiastic. When Caleb was on his balance bike, he really picked up on it quite quickly, but Naomi, normally someone who enjoys the thrill of excitement, is very methodical about moving forward on it. Methodical is not really what you need in a balance bike, you need some…momentum? You’re supposed to push off with your feet and balance on it as it moves forward on its own, like a skateboard.
Earlier this year, before the pandemic really picked up and closed down all the shops, we got Caleb a new bike and both of them new helmets from Cycle Solutions, which is on Parliament, just around the corner from the studio shop. Will it surprise you to know that she picked out this helmet herself? The people at Cycle Solutions are really nice, letting the kids try out stuff and helping them pick out their helmets. Glad to have them in the neighbourhood, and also glad we picked the bike up to give Caleb something to do.
Their shop backs onto the laneway that we bike in as well, so every once in a while we see someone from there testing out a bike, riding it up and down. It’s fun to watch them as they ride, shifting gears, fiddling with things as they pedal slowly, just checking things out, and then Caleb, tearing around with his neon helmet, 5 year old legs pumping. Not sure quite what the metaphor here is, but I’m pretty sure the adults aren’t the ones coming out on top.
In any case, one nice silver lining to this pandemic is the time we always wished we had more of with our kids. We are all just trying to survive, small business or otherwise, but these moments here are what we have. I don’t want this to be a black hole of several months, where everything was merely paused. So much of the time, too much of the time, we are hunched over our screens trying to place orders or answer emails, I’m drawing imaginary lines around me for children not to cross into while I’m taking photos, I’m setting timers for the kids to play on their own while I finish work and then adjusting the timer while they’re gone.
I don’t want this to merely be a holding period, waiting until after all this is over for “real life” to begin again. Naomi actually self-potty trained at the beginning of the pandemic, right when we started going into the main shop everyday after everything closed down. It was like a little gift to us (actually a not insubstantial gift as washing and drying cloth diapers is not something you can snap your fingers on). She was already using the toilet here and there on her own before, but the pandemic shifted all of our attention away and then poof, she’s now diaper-less. We put her in a diaper at night to avoid having to do extra laundry and sheets, but she takes her own diapers off in the morning and I’m just discovering that they’re actually dry. So that’s great! But that isn’t really what I’m driving at. It would be fantastic, of course, if the kids learned to do lots of great life skills that they could take away with them. But if she was still in diapers, if she was having a hard time adjusting to new life routines, that would be okay too.
What I’m talking about is more that in this season of life I’ve had abundant time to consider what’s really important to us, and how I want to spend my time, what I want my kids to remember. We can ride our bikes, we can learn to cook new things and cook together, we can talk about e-readers and cats with the staff and then talk to Jon about getting a second cat, we can practice speaking Chinese with our elderly next door neighbours and also get to know them, we can hang laundry outside while listening to music, we can discover fried halloumi, we can get to know other local businesses better, we can get lost in Tintin comics, we can get lost in adult books of our own, we can learn new pieces on the cello, we can have regular Zoom meetings with the kids’ grandfather, we can build puzzles, we can beat Jon in Connect4, we can learn about recycling properly, we can watch good movies with local pizza take out, we can watch the raccoons from the safety of our windows.
Every day there are hard moments, lost tempers, unhappy tears, spilled milk. But we can also spend our afternoons readings about Catstronauts and feeling the breeze in the laneway.