Parenting 101: Sit Back And Enjoy The Ride

Sending your kid off to summer camp for the first time can be traumatic for any mother. We are torn between the luxury of a few hours of freedom to ourselves, and the thought that our children might not need us anymore. I've always felt that a mother's role is like walking a tightrope. On one end is teaching your child that you will always be there for them, being sure they feel loved and secure. On the other end is giving them the self-confidence, strength and faith to know that they can do anything - on their own.

When my daughter, Kelsey, came to me last Christmas and told me that she wanted to go on a three month - 3800-mile cross-country cycling adventure to raise awareness for affordable housing, I was cautious, to say the least. When she told me they would be cycling from Virginia Beach to Oregon, stopping every few days to volunteer at a Habitat "build" project in cities along the way, my curiosity piqued.

My knee jerk reaction was; "Wow, that sounds amazing!" But internally, I am thinking "What about your job (she has been working for an architectural firm in DC since graduating from Virginia Tech 2 years ago) "What about your apartment?" "What about insurance?" Not to mention, "The Rockies are really big mountains!"

My first vision was of her on the side of a road with skinned knees from falling off her bike! But then I looked beyond that and saw the beautiful country that she would see along the way and I had to agree. She has worked incredibly hard over the past few years, not only graduating summa cum laude with her Architectural degree but more recently studying for and passing all seven of her Architectural Board exams. So she really deserves to take this time for herself and support a cause she strongly believes in!

Once I learned about the organization, it made me feel a little more comfortable about her mission. Bike & Build is an organization that focuses on advocating the need for affordable housing by organizing cycling trips across the country. These trips not only help to raise awareness on this important issue but perhaps, more importantly, empower young adults (between 18-26) to embark on a journey of a lifetime of service and civic engagement.
Since 2003 the organization has raised more than 5.8 million dollars for affordable housing, volunteered more than 200,000 hours at build sites across the U.S. and pedaled more than 9.5 million miles!

Agreeing that she should go was the easy part - the hard part has been the hours of work she has put in to make this happen. She's put incredible effort into her fundraising, so naturally my husband, John, and I wanted to help. So we organized a benefit band party to raise awareness and funds for Bike & Build and to support our local Habitat for Humanity by accepting donations for their local ReStore location. Kelsey has also held many other fundraisers that included selling her own original artwork and gaining sponsors for her daily rides across each state.

This incredible journey has offered Kelsey a ton of other life lessons, too. She's had to negotiate with her employer for a leave of absence and find a roommate to sublet her apartment (DC rents are too high for her to keep her belongings there during the trip). Not to mention packing up her most of her worldly possessions and moving them to our place in Bethlehem, PA.
Then there was the training regiment - you don't just decide one day to cycle 60-90 miles almost every day without training, so she logged more than 500 training miles and then had to pack for a 10-week trek through everything from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to the plains of Kansas. All of her gear, which included a sleeping bag (as they stay at mostly churches and community centers along the route) had to fit into ONE duffel bag!
Her resolve to get it all done amazed me and made me realize that this was an adventure that my husband and I had been preparing her for her entire life. This is not a trip for the faint of heart - this is a journey of a lifetime!

John and I were there three weeks ago to see Kelsey, along with her team of 26 ambitious young adults from across the nation, take off from Virginia Beach on a cold, rainy Saturday in May. They will arrive, 10 weeks later in Portland Oregon on July 31st.
Am I nervous? Of course - she may be 24 - but she is still my baby! And the Rockies really are big mountains! But I am really at peace with her decision to go and I am going to sit back and enjoy "her ride." I pray for her every day and know that her strong faith is part of the reason she wants to give back to the world. So I just need to let go and let God - or get dragged behind.

Follow Kelsey on her website and support her efforts.
See the media attention.

Carrie Oesmann