Charity: Giving something to someone. No expectation of a return.

Community: Giving something to someone. May be paid in beer or soda. No expectation of a return. Knowledge that if you need a hand that person is there for you like you were there for them.

We watched our daughter riding her friend’s bike and knew something had to be done. Not because my daughters asked for bikes or complained they did not have them. They never complained about anything, really, except the turn-taking-game-choosing unfairness of life that plagues all children with siblings. As parents, we watch them and want things for them. The want is the small, dark, and forever gnawing at the bright parts of your heart. It feeds on your love and your happiness to whisper in the middle of the night, “You’re not good enough. This time it really mattered and you botched it.”

I’ve had a little bike-monster gnawing at me for a long time now. My girls have scooters and have been able to (mostly) keep up with the neighborhood kids. They haven’t seemed particularly sad or depressed or angry they don’t have bikes. I wasn’t even sure they wanted them in any kind of active way until I saw MIddle Sister on her friend’s bike riding like she had been forever. I was both thrilled for her and felt the little monster take on new strength, telling me how awful I was for not doing the right thing and providing my kids better transportation options.

Logic kept asking, “Where will they go on the bikes?” “You know only one can ride a bike so far, yes?” “Won’t you worry more if she has the ability to go farther away?”

The little monster ignored the cries of Logic and kept on gnawing. Every bite piercing with not-good-enough pain. The message taking little chunks of the light with every bite. Chewing away my fear along with my happiness.

This is a town where people will help out a friend for a case of beer if you can swing it and the company if you can’t. It might be our pre-existing relationships helping us along but, even without those, his skills are valued and so he trades them – and beer –  for car repairs and help moving things. Friendships are the kind I only dreamed about growing up where a community of people help one another and everyone feels they have someone to turn to in a time of need. Friendships based on mutual respect.

So this is how we ended up with two bmx bikes and a 22” bike one of the girls can grow into that need a little bit of work and (even without a little bit of work) are rideable.

These are the moments that quiet the little monster.

The moments that make you feel like you belong.

Times where, for just a moment, you feel optimism and hope and even forget how rare those feelings are.

I’ve spent so many years on the outside looking in. Looking in on social circles I didn’t know how to join. Looking in on parties I didn’t know how to attend. Looking and wanting and wishing and feeling so lonely while being so grateful for the few true, close friends I do have because without them I would have been truly adrift.

But now we have community. That means things like bikes made to take a beating because that’s what’s going to happen to them. If one of the kids forgets to use the kickstand and drops the bike on the ground to excitedly join her friends? I won’t cry for the paint job or the frame or the cost of that bike that just hit gravel without a second thought. There will be time to teach her to treat her bike with care and respect but this summer she will just get to enjoy the trip and have fun when she gets to her destination.

I just happen to be raising girls who happen to prefer trees and skinned knees and sliding into first base. If they loved tea parties I would have different opinions on what they need because all loves are good loves for children to have. I think it’s my job as a mother to help them have what they need to enjoy the things they love.

Bikes and trees and softball-skinned knees, that’s what little girls are made of.

For now.

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