One aspect of modern parenthood is ensuring your children can do all the things that all their friends can do. If the rest of the class can swim, your child must swim too. And if they can ride their bikes, so must yours.
The swimming’s not been a problem (I took Barney to the pool every week from a very young age; he’s very confident in the water now). But I’ve had sleepless nights worrying about the cycling.
Most of his friends have been able to cycle for a year or so. Last summer, when we took him for cycling practice in a local car park, it was a near disaster. He was upset that his pals were so much better on a bike than he was. I was upset that he was upset. And I was utterly out of breath after running alongside him for 15 minutes.
Today we had not much else to do, and the weather was too grim for a fun outing. Late in the afternoon, after he’d spent hours on the living room floor building stuff with Lego, I suggested a session of cycling practice. He said OK. I prepared myself for more getting-out-of-breath.
So off we trekked to the local secondary school, which has a large, flat car park. Not much of our town is flat, and learning to ride a bike on a slope is much more difficult. The school car park is not only flat, but also devoid of cars on a sleepy, drizzly Sunday afternoon. Perfect.
There in the car park, I held the bike firm while B climbed on, and gingerly started jogging as he started pedaling. Then I let go, and he accelerated ahead of me – and that was that. He was riding his bike. He had a HUGE grin on his face, echoed only by the huge grin on mine, which got occasionally hidden as my hand reached up to wipe a tear of pride from my eye.
I have the vaguest of memories of my own learning-to-ride moment. They are so vague, and so cliched, that I worry I might be have conjured them up in my imagination years ago, and they’ve just stayed with me ever since. In my mind, I’m about six (the same age Barney is now), and I’m cycling on the road outside our house. My brother is watching, helping and encouraging me. The stabilisers have only just been removed, and less than a minute later I’m hurtling down the road on just two wheels, and I’ve got that same HUGE grin on my face.
I can’t say for sure that my memory is accurate, but fiction or not it has stayed with me, and today it came rushing back into my mind as little B flew round and round the school car park, grinning his HUGE grin and utterly, utterly pleased with himself.
I’m so proud. I’m so proud. He’s MY boy, and he can ride his bike.
(5th October 2008)