When Instincts Fail You
November 19th, 2013
Moms have powerful instincts. On a primal level, our instincts tell us to protect our young, sacrifice for our families, and go into bizarre cleaning frenzies just before we give birth (go figure). Our mom radar gives us eyes in the back of our heads when little hands are reaching for an extra cookie and warns us that it’s suspiciously quiet in the living room, better go check.
But sometimes mom instinct can let you down. A week ago, my instincts landed me face down on the pavement after flipping my bicycle.
It was a gorgeous, cool sunny afternoon – probably one of the last of the season – and the kiddos successfully lobbied for a trip to the park. We decided to bike down from my parents’ house about four blocks away. Miss Mouse pronounced herself big enough to ride All By Herself the whole way so we packed Little Bird and Buggie into the bike trailer and let Miss Mouse saddle up her big girl bike.
Three grownups on bikes, one five-year-old on bike, two wee ones in the trailer. Off we go!
All went well until we got to the final half block before the park. It has a gentle downhill slope. I sensed trouble and pulled up at the top of the hill with Miss Mouse. My mom went on down to catch Mouse if she had trouble.
Which she did.
The second she took off down the hill, I could tell it was going to end badly. She panicked immediately and could not remember how to brake despite shouted directions from mom and me. I headed after her as she picked up speed and caromed down the hill.
Mom managed to grab her as she went by, but couldn’t truly stop her – she managed to pull Miss Mouse and her bike both off the road into a heap on the grass.
I saw them start to go down and that’s when my instincts failed me. My brain sent two strong orders: Stop the Bike and Catch the Child. I reached out my right hand for my daughter even though I was nowhere near close enough to grab her. At the same time, I braked hard with my left hand…
…which, as any biker knows, is the best way on earth to flip your bike.
The left hand brake controls only the front wheels. When the front of the bike stops but the back doesn’t, well, it’s not good.
So I sailed over my handlebars and landed with a crunch. A trip to the ER reassured us that my wrist was only sprained, not broken, and I’ve watched in awe as my left leg and right hand have turned progressively more lurid shades of blue, black, and purple.
What is fascinating about the whole ordeal was that I don’t remember reaching for Mouse. We pieced together afterwards what must have happened. In my head, one minute I was riding toward her, the next minute I was landing on the pavement. No conscious decision to brake. No conscious decision to reach.
Mom instinct. I think I prefer the eyes in the back of my head!