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Today has been a special day. Not just because it's the day after Chris Froome won the 100th Tour de France, or because the weather forecasters got it wrong and it was a day of glorious sunshine rather than the thunderstorms that had been predicted. No, it's because today is the day my son T learnt to ride his bike for the very first time.
T is a sporty four year old boy and ultra competitive, so it came as a surprise to find he wasn't totally enamoured with the thought of learning to pedal his bike. He's been riding a balance bike for years, and is happy to scoot round on his hand-me-down Islabike, but won't pedal. Hmm, strange.
If there is a game to play or a sport to get to grips with, T always wants to have a go, but it doesn't stop there as he always wants to do it to the best of his abilities. He's a stickler for the mantra 'practice makes perfect'. It's just his competitive nature I guess. He's a ferocious little rugby player, can kick a football like a mule and enjoys swinging a tennis racket, so when he threw an ambivalent look at me when I suggested we go out into the cul-de-sac and get some cycling practice in, I sensed there was more to it.
A little while later, after tempting him with strawberries from the garden (and an ice cream) he let his guard drop and I managed to coax out of him that he was scared of falling off onto the tarmac. I was taken aback by this, as without fail he's unfazed by anything risky or that may result in injury.
We had a chat about how a fall or two is pretty normal when you're learning to ride a bike, and how professionals when racing fall off quite a bit. He seemed happy with that and so between us a cunning plan was formed.
We'd ride our bikes to a large park with grass less bumpy than our lawn (that won't be a problem to find!) using the FollowMe tandem to pull him along. Then we'd unhitch his Islabike when we got there, and we'd have a try at getting him to learn to ride by himself. He also suggested we could take his skateboard pads' just in case'.
So we arrived at the park, chatted for a moment or two about the things we could do when he learnt to ride, the places we could visit and the coffee and cake stops we could have. Then I added the most important ingredient for T - a tablespoon of competitiveness.
Within a breath, he was sitting on the bike raring to go, and with a gentle push he was off with my fingertips just brushing the back of his seat. I didn't tell him I wasn't holding on, but just wandering along behind like a grey faced old dog.
At the top of the park I confessed to my lack of physical connection, and he shrieked with happiness holding his arms aloft in a similar vein to Chris Froome as he was crowned winner of the Tour de France under a beautiful Parisian sky.
We turned around, and having expected to continue my act as park guide, I was somewhat surprised as he left me for dead in a trail of sun-scorched grass. It made me realise that up and down the country, countless parents will be watching their offspring take their first pedals to what will hopefully be a fit and active life spent on two wheels. In a couple of cases, those tiny, wobbly girls and boys will become the Laura Trott's and Chris Froome's of the future, ready to take on the world.
As I watched him get farther and farther away, the feeling was one of intense pride, coupled with the sobering reality that I should resign myself to the fact that as he grows into a young man this will be the view I'm most likely to see as I struggle to keep pace with my wonderful but competitive son. To the future!
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