“I hate this!” wailed Tom, “It isn’t even fun.”
“Yes it is,” I lied, “just think how you’ll feel when you can do it.”
Yesterday was the day Tom would learn to ride his bike (take fifty.) We practised going up and down our street. Every time I let go, he veered into people’s front doors and cars, screaming and landing in a heap, narrowly missing dog turd. He was wearing knee and elbow pads, but was still managing to get quite a collection of colourful cuts and bruises. At one point, I somehow ended up tangled up with him and the bike, a hole in my leggings, gravel in my palm, both of us half-laughing, half-crying.
“I don’t even want to do this, Mum!”
“Come on, let’s go to the park.”
“Do we have to?”
Tom carried on creating all down the street. His shouts and growls drowned out power washers, stereos, lawnmowers and strimmers. I felt like an evil parent, forcing my child to do this thing he hated when he should have been having a happy day in the sun.
“Go on lad, you can do it,” said a shirtless stranger, smoking on his doorstep.
“No I can’t!”
“No such word as can’t, mate!”
In the park, Tom carried on wobbling all over the place and crashing into trees and bins. I was getting tired and my back was killing.
“Can I not just go on the play area now?”
“Yeah, go on.”
And I lay in the grass, watching him through the spokes of his bike wheels. Everything else has been thankfully easy: swimming, reading, writing (after a shaky, left-handed start.) Perhaps he just wasn’t going to be able to ride a bike. Perhaps we should just forget it for a bit.
“Come on, let’s go in,” I said, when it started to get cold.
“Do I have to push my bike all the way home?”
“Oh! I just hate it. The stupid pedals bash my legs.”
“Don’t be so ungrateful.”
Today was even warmer than yesterday. I hung the washing in the yard and threw out a load of rubbish. Tom asked me to put on Mr Blue Sky by E.L.O. and we had a little dance round the living room. The last thing I wanted to do was ruin the mood with another battle of wills and wheels.
“Do we have to take my bike to the park?”
“Yes. You’re going to do it today, I know you are.”
I wanted to have faith in him, but I wasn’t convinced that the day wouldn’t end with a tantrum in a flower bed.
There were so many distractions in the park: prams, frisbees, dogs, the ice cream van blasting out Match of the Day.
“Can I not just go and play, Mum?”
“Let’s just try, one more time.”
We came to an empty, shady path. I held on to the back of the saddle, feeling him go in a straight line and gather momentum.
“Don’t let go Mum, don’t let go!”
“OK,” I lied, again, letting go.
And this just happened…
“Did I just ride my bike, by myself?” he said, when he finally realised.
“Yesss! Give me five!”
And when he’d finished leaping around the play area, he asked me if he could ride it home.