Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finding confidence

I was certain I didn't have the mechanical skills, the spatial relations, or the brute strength to install the bike rack on the car.

That's a Rick-job, I told myself. He's good at these endeavors. He's good at making things and fixing things. He's capable with mechanical systems and manual labor. If I do it, the bike rack will tumble off as soon as I start driving. Not only that, but the bikes we attach to it will fall into the street. I'll lose my bike rack and our bikes, and I'll humiliate myself in front of other drivers, but worst of all, I could cause a serious accident to someone behind me.

Nope, not my kind of thing. We all know what we're good at. I can write and cook and interview people. But attach a bike rack to a car and feel confident it will stay there? No way. That's the kind of thing I turn to Rick for.

Except that Rick was at work for the day, and Tim and I were home for the Monday holiday, and both of us thought it would really be great if we could get our bikes in for maintenance on this first warm sunny spring day so that the next time we have weather this beautiful and a day off, we can go for a ride.

And Tim had none of my qualms. Like most teenage boys, he's pretty confident in his ability to master the physical world, rightly or wrongly. In just the past few weeks, he has proven himself able to throw a change-up pitch and execute a three-point turn in the driveway. On Easter, shortly before dinner was served, he nonchalantly picked me up and carried me across the kitchen.

So he didn't really see why we couldn't go ahead and install the bike rack ourselves. "Because it won't stay on," I told him. "Because it's complicated. Because we won't be able to tell if we attached it correctly or not."

But Tim disagreed. "Let's just do it," he grumbled. "It will be fine."

He lifted it onto the car; I connected the belts. He tightened the cinches; I fastened the clips.

Together, we lifted the two bikes onto the rack.

Nothing fell. I tugged and shifted its various parts to see what would happen. It held fast.

"See, Mom," Tim sighed. "It wasn't that hard."

I wasn't convinced, but Tim suggested we drive down the driveway and see. Our driveway is long and somewhat pothole-ridden; it seemed like a reasonable test. At the end of the driveway, rack and bikes were still intact.

So we drove to the bike repair shop. I somehow expected more credit. "How did you get these bikes here?" I expected the bike technician to ask. "You know how to install a bike rack yourself?"

Needless to say, no marveling at our aptitude was forthcoming on his part. His job is to help people with their bikes, not to wonder how they got there. If he was happy to see me, it was because we represented new business, not because it meant I'd overcome years of assumptions that I wasn't capable of a task like this without Rick's oversight.

When I got home, I registered for my first half-marathon, something I've been vacillating on for months. I want to do it, but some days I think I can and other days I think I can't, and I didn't want to register until I was sure.

But Tim set a good example yesterday. Although there are few apparent similarities between installing a bike rack and running a half-marathon, it was Tim's confidence that stayed with me once we'd dropped off the bikes and been assured that the leaky tires would be replaced within a day or two. "We can do it ourselves, Mom," he had said. Tim wasn't amazed to think we could do this without Rick; he was slightly dismayed by my belief we couldn't. I'm not sure I can run a half-marathon. But I might as well tell myself I can, just as Tim did with the bike rack. I'll try it and find out.

Learning from one's children is always an interesting experience. In most ways, I don't particularly want to act like a 15-year-old boy. But this time it served me well. "Sure, I can probably do this," I told myself as I clicked the “pay now” button on the registration site for the half-marathon. It's still three months away, but I think I can do it. And if I'm right, I'll have Tim to credit for my confidence.

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