Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Bike rides. A perfect wholesome family activity. It's fun, it's exercise, it's outdoors - it is childhood perfection.
Unless you have a three year old. Actually our three year old is particularly tenacious. She hopped on her big girl bike and never looked back. As long as we dangle a chocolate milk as part of the proceedings she is good for an hour or more.
So, with the sun finally shining after a few days of rain and housebound boredom, we began the half hour process that is setting up a family of four for a bike ride. Once all helmet straps are fiddled with, favorite stuffies are tucked into baskets (with a blanket) snacks and water are packed, tires inflated, seat heights adjusted and spare warm clothes rejected - we head out.
It is a perfect day, sunny but crisp. The roads are quiet. The fall colors are stunning. As we peddle along I feel the wind in my hair - this is a golden moment - until the three year old stops dead causing me to ram into the back of her and fall off my bike.
"What happened sweetie?" I say through gritted teeth.
"There's a leaf."
A leaf. A leaf is the cause of my sore elbow and bruised pride. Not a particularly special or different leaf. In fact, a leaf much like the 25,000 others lying in the road all around us.
"Did you want that leaf for something?"
"Nope - it's just a leaf."
We have a short discussion about stopping. When you should - when you shouldn't. We proceed. She stops again. I have learned by lesson and have kept a safe distance.
"Why are you stopping sweetie?"
"The road is bendy."
"What do you mean?"
"It bends down here and I'm going to fall off."
She means the camber towards the curb. I patiently explain that her bike has stabilizers and will prevent her from tipping. She's safe. We carry on. When I say we carry on - you might imagine that means we cycle for some way. It doesn't - it means we cycle maybe ten feet then stop to re-arrange bunnies' blanket in the basket. Then we might make it thirty feet when a stick catches her eye. A car passing in the other direction needs careful observation - it's blue! Eight feet - her helmet needs re-adjustment. Fifteen feet, she's hungry. Forty feet (a marathon) she's cold (extra sweater applied.) Then tired, then too hot (extra sweater removed.) I have had to stop suddenly so many times my brakes are squealing.
The husband and the eight year old cycle back to us occasionally. They are flushed with exertion and have that happy ruddy glow. I want to scream. I am placated by some soothing words from The Husband;
"I'll ride with her on the way back" and a very welcome decaf cappuccino.
I want to see the joy in the Three year old's meandering ways. Her delight at the simple things. Her love of discovery. I do.
I also want to complete one full rotation of my tyre before applying the brakes.
I know that you more tenured parents will tell me that all too soon I will be lamenting the fact that bike rides don't include me at all. When is the happy medium?