Somewhere along the way, before we had the kids, we bought a tandem. For those readers who do not speak bicycle, a tandem is a bicycle-built-for-two. We’ve been asked if we are planning to ride the tandem to Florida.
Technically, we think taking the tandem would be a bad idea. For one, there would only be one bike, and if that one bike breaks down, we would be stuck. With 2 bikes, if one bike breaks down, the other bike can go for help. Two bikes also means more room for the panniers and other equipment. And the tandem is a very heavy, cumbersome piece of equipment. Carrying it up and down stairs, fitting it into elevators, and hiding it in parking lots is always a challenge.
Personally, I would feel somewhat cheated after riding 2200 miles on the back of the tandem. On a tandem, the front rider is the captain, and the rear rider is the stoker. Since the captain has to hold the entire weight of the bike and the stoker whenever you stop, it makes sense that the stronger and heavier rider be the captain. I don’t mind being the stoker until someone sees us and yells “Hey honey, getting a free ride back there?” or “Make her do some work back there, she’s just slouching!” And since the stoker pedals as much as the captain, this stoker wants some credit, thank you very much.
Then there’s the fact that, at least in the past, our tandem was a rolling argument. There’s always something to argue about on the tandem – either Dana thinks I’m not pushing hard enough, or I want him to warn me before we hit a big bump. But in our early days of tandem riding, we spent the entire time arguing about his kids.
This is the second marriage for both of us, and while I had no children in my first marriage, Dana had 3. When we first got together, Lauren was 6, Brian was 4, and Tim was 2. As difficult as raising kids can be, raising part-time step-kids is by far more frustrating and challenging.
Divorce is hard for kids. They have to move between households, constantly adjusting to different rules and different parenting styles, and be the sounding boards for 2 hurt and angry adults. When a kid from an intact family asks for a new toy, he may be told no, but when a child of divorce asks for the same toy, he may set off a multi-household argument peppered with terms like lawyer, lost visitation, and restraining order.
While I cared deeply about the kids, I had no control over their behavior, and no say in their activities. Fun times always ended abruptly. Bad times seemed to linger into the week, since there was no time to resolve anything. So I would voice my concerns on the tandem, and Dana would defend his kids, and I would tell him to stop defending them and start raising them, and things generally got worse from there. (I was going to say “went downhill from there”, except that on a bike, downhill is good, and those arguments were not good.)
We no longer argue when we ride the tandem, and The Rolling Argument has become an endearing name for it. I’m also proud to report that, now that the kids are adults, we all have a great relationship. We socialize with them, and I think we have found a pleasant family/friend place that we are all comfortable with. All 5 kids get along great, and view each other as siblings, a blessing I do not take for granted. I credit all 7 of us from coming out of those early years intact and happy.
Of course, the big villain in any such story is the stepmother. In all the fairy tales we read as children, was there ever a nice stepmother? The kids laugh when I refer to myself as their evil stepmother, but sadly, the term rolls off our tongues way too easily. In defense of all stepmothers, I’m thinking of writing a prequel to Cinderella.
In my story, Cinderella will show up for the weekend and complain that the food and the TV are better at mom’s house. She will inform her nice stepmother that said stepmother is not allowed to touch her or talk to her because mommy says that she is a bad person. She will remove random objects from her stepmother’s home, accusing the stepmother of stealing them from “nice mommy”. And she will begin every statement with “mommy says”.
And then the nice stepmother will go through a musical, magical transformation, during which she will turn purple and grow fangs. I’m totally seeing Disney here, right?