Think of something faster than a 7-year-old boy on a two-wheel bike.
Maybe a race car at the drop of the checkered flag? Perhaps a rocket ship blasting into space? Or how quickly a toddler mom books it out of the house after being told she can have a hands-free hour ALONE in Target.
Yes, all of these things are seriously speedy, but I have still never seen anything quite as quick as a boy on a bike on a sunny day with endless open track ahead of him.
Today, my 6-year-old son wanted to ride bikes with his 7-year-old best friend.
They are just two peas in a pod and they love spending hours and hours together.
They spend hours happily destroying our entire playroom.
They spend hours making up emergencies for all their toy trucks to handle.
They spend hours creating very silly songs on very loud musical instruments.
And they spend hours chasing each other on the playground on warm afternoons, tagging in and out, climbing up and down the slides, squealing those thunderous peals of joyful chaos at decibels that only little boys can reach.
But today, when they wanted to spend a few hours riding their bikes in the park, I had a knot in the pit of my mom-stomach.
To the untrained eye, everything about them is the same.
Their bikes are both green and black.
Their helmets are both blue and racing striped.
Their smiles are both energetic and contagious.
But physically, they are not the same.
My son has Cerebral Palsy.
His body is different than other kids.
His muscles are weaker.
His ligaments are looser.
His balance is off.
His control is lacking at best.
He frequently forgets to use the entire left side of his body because, for much of his life, he had no use of it at all.
We have come SO far.
We still have so very far to go.
So when they pulled out the bikes and begged me to take them to the park, I didn’t know what to say.
Do I explain to this very eager, very fast kid that my son is different than him?
Do I tell him what CP is, how there’s no way my son can keep up with him?
Do I ask this friend to change his mind, pick another activity, anything else that won’t point out my son’s challenges in such an obvious way?
When my little guy excitedly jumped up and said “I’ll go get my helmet,” his friend tugged me down and said softly: “Don’t worry James’s Mom. I’ll go slow for him.”
My eyes blinked away tears at this unexpected gesture of kindness.
“Are you sure? I know how much you love to go fast!”
“Yeah, I’m totally sure,” he replied in his sweet second-grader way. “That’s what friendship is. Sometimes, love means slowing down.”
All this time, his friend saw the way that my son couldn’t do all the equipment at the playground and he adapted.
He saw the way my son ran and then notched his own pace down several steps.
He saw the way my son relied on training wheels and guidance on the bike, and while he could have lapped him a million times over, he never left his side.
They spent hours riding their bikes together.
Turns out, I didn’t have to explain anything at all.
That’s what friendship is.
Sometimes, love means slowing down.