We recently got my son a balance bike.

Like most parents in America right now, we’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible outside when it’s nice. The fresh air seems to ease the tension that builds up after long days stuck in the house, and everyone breathes easier. My wife especially prefers that the kids expend their limitless energy somewhere other than on her living room furniture.

So when our youngest started showing interest in a bicycle, we didn’t think twice. A week later, a shiny new red one arrived on our doorstep . . . in about 50 pieces. But after some assembly assistance from a few Allen keys, a wrench, and a Philips head screwdriver, we were in business. I offered to go for a walk so my over-the-moon excited 3-year-old could take his new wheels for a spin.

He took off with lightning speed—if we’re being honest, he came out of the gate way too fast and I think we’ll probably need to address this strategy and revise in the future. He hurtled down the sidewalk, swaying a little to each side as his feet alternately pushed off the pavement.

I trudged along behind him as we made our way to an empty parking lot nearby. I felt my heart soar as I watched my little guy zoom around, thrilled with his newfound freedom of movement.

Of course, my sense of fatherly pride rose in correlation with his speed, and I whooped and hollered with the enthusiasm of someone who hasn’t had any real sports to cheer for in months.

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Unfortunately, my high didn’t last long.

“Daddy, I’m tired.”

You’re kidding me.

“Buddy, we’ve only been out here 15 minutes.”

“I’M TIRED.”

He swung one leg over the saddle and let his shiny new present fall to the ground in a heap (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wince when the metal hit the pavement). He then held his arms up to me in a motion that clearly indicated he wanted to be carried.

Of course, by this point, we’re a solid 10-minute walk from home.

Now, I’m no sucker. This was as good an opportunity as any to teach a valuable life lesson, you know, about the importance of finishing what we start and all that.

So I did what any good, self-respecting father would do:

I picked up the kid and picked up the bike, and I started walking home.

So many things don’t look familiar to us right now. Even if it’s just a simple walk around the neighborhood, the differences are stark. People are wearing masks, keeping their distance . . . no one really stops to talk, and if they do, it’s from six feet apart and only to say a quick, “Hey, how are ya?” before moving on.

Things are weird, and I have no clue when they won’t be anymore.

But as far as I know, Covid-19 hasn’t deterred little boys or girls from taking overly-ambitious bike rides.

And it definitely hasn’t stopped parents from picking up the slack . . . literally.

But we do it, because we love them.

We do it, because sometimes we all bite off more than we can chew.

We do it, because sometimes we have to pick our battles.

And we do it, because it’s one small thing we still can do for them.

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I like to think that no matter where I am in the world, I could lock eyes with another dad hauling a bicycle in one arm and a small child in the other, and maybe exchange a head nod in solidarity. A look of understanding and commiseration that no mask could ever hide.

The message is the same in any language: the things we do for our kids, man.

And it’s kind of comforting to know that even when it feels like the world has been flipped upside down, some things won’t ever change.

Cesar Gudiel

I always try my best, with varying results. Husband to 1. Dad to 3. Fur-dad to 2. Perpetual carrier of abandoned bicycles and tired children.