Motherhood: Four wheeler love

The four-wheeler is like a fifth member of the family around here. We ride it almost every day, the earth holding us up lap after lap as we wear trails in the field and through the trees.

Riding the four-wheeler is one of the few things the boys and I can agree upon. They seem to have outgrown the trains, the Legos they would rather build by themselves, and the soccer games have started to involve a lot of me getting hit in the face with a ball going the speed of light.

But the four-wheeler remains timeless. We’ve ridden it all winter long, taking turns getting it stuck in the snow, and, now that spring is here, I can’t wait to ride it without looking like a very large woman (under layer upon layer of clothing) with a very small head.

These are the things they (we) love about it:

The jumps, of course. Wait, don’t worry. The jumps are kid-sized. Mostly.

And when I say jumps, I mean jumping the plastic sled I pull behind the four-wheeler.

The jumps occur when I drive the ATV over a hill with gentleness and patience (driving them into a frenzy), and pull them to the very tippy top, like the Grinch who stole Christmas almost spills the sled full of toys over the mountain.

Then. I gun it.

For a moment, they are flying through the air. Then, in a nanosecond and before they can gain dangerous heights or speeds, the sled is pulled out from under them. They land in a breathless, glorious heap at the base of the hill with dirt up their back and in their teeth. I know. This sounds brutal. But when they keep begging for more, what’s a vindictive mother to do?

Braking hard.
This happens one of two ways:
1. I’m letting one of the children run the throttle and he decides to admire a passing insect instead of navigate around a tree or, once, the side of the house. I panic and hit the brakes. It’s amazing how fast you can stop a four-wheeler plugging along in second gear. It’s swift, it’s mighty and it’s kinda funny.

To me, of course. The children are not pleased and they instantly insist that they did see the insect AND the tree, and that I was worried about nothing. In a show of respect, I’ve developed my nerves of steel (unlike my abs) and can now usually withhold panic long enough for the child to regain his wits and steer us to safety. It’s a trust-building exercise for all involved. Mostly me.

2. When the kids are giving me trouble, whining or fighting. One tap of the brakes and it shuts everyone up. Plus, like I said, it’s kinda funny. They all end up in a grumpy monster hug around me.

The puddles.
What better way to burn off some energy than split the insides out a few mud puddles in our long gravel driveway? Even better, our drive runs along the backyards of a few neighbors. Not only are we burning off a little steam, we’re offering the neighbors a no-cost, critically acclaimed show.

The puddle cruising is not complete until a) all the puddles are flushed empty; or b) at least one of us is so soaked that our hands are freezing and club-like, even in July. Because what’s the only way to end a good four-wheeler ride? A nice warm bath, occasionally a photographic opp and, the bane of four-wheeler mothers everywhere, the dreaded load of laundry.