Our latest conflicts revolve around swimming and riding his bicycle. The bicycle was purchased last year as a reward for learning to swim, which is ironic because he has since gone back to clasping me around the neck in the shallow end. I have given up on swimming - I intend to leave his future tuition to professionals - but I don't think you can hire someone to teach your kid to ride a bike.
Initially Barnaby refused to do anything but admire his bicycle, something which annoyed me so much that I threatened to take it away. I regret that now. These days I spend most of my time trying to persuade him to give up and go home. For the first six months we just pulled him around on a rope tied to the handlebars. Then he made halting attempts to pedal. Now, a year on, we have reached a standstill. He cannot get the bike up even the slightest incline, but he refuses any aid. In spite of the stabilisers and a top speed of one mile per hour, he still manages to come off it with alarming regularity. When he does he lets out a shriek that brings the entire park to a standstill. As people gather around what they assume is a stabbing, his worst epithets are employed: stupid head, dumb dada, willy-man. "You are awful," he says, "and I hate you." Then it's back on the bike, and away we go.
I admire his persistence, but I do not share it. I have reacted with everything from extreme patience to complete loss of temper, but nothing seems to bring us a day closer to the time when he will ride with confidence. Last week, when I could no longer cope with the whining, the crying, the screaming and his refusal to let me touch or even approach his bike, I pulled him off it and threw it into the bushes. The au pair had to go and get it later. As I marched him home on foot, I could feel the stares of the other park-goers. "The kid's right," they were thinking. "He is a willy-man."
I recall that it was my mother who taught me to ride a bike. Unfortunately my wife can't teach Barnaby because she has just quit smoking. The last time they went out she was the one who had the tantrum.Reuse content