This is fun!
By the time we get out the door, we're all a bit frazzled. There have been persistent complaints from the youngest, determined not to come, equally determined to voice this loudly and often. Every step of the process calls for greater patience, calm, clear messaging. Yes, we are all going. No, there is no option to stay home. No, there's no problem with the bike, its seat, your helmet. It's FUN, remember?
We turn out of our driveway in a convoy. I'm at the rear with her, now beginning to show some weariness with the constant barrage of angry comments coming from our usually sweet and by far most sensible child. I think this fact makes it even harder to not lose my temper, she's smart enough to know she'll never get her way by throwing a tantrum. I don't recall her ever doing it as a toddler, let alone now. Having stopped only two doors down to complain again about something or other, the forward party have stopped and are riding circles, looking back in anticipation. I appeal to her common sense and encourage her forward, my tone more stern and ability to keep calm waning.
As we reach the others, I motion to her dad to swap places, and manage to relax a little as I cruise along with the elder two towards the big downhill, everyone's favourite part. It was my idea to head out on the bikes, wanting to make the most of the warm and sunny day, keen to head out on a path we hadn't tried before. We stop at the crest of the hill, turning to look for the stragglers. They're stopped again, the small one with her helmet off. There's clearly a conversation taking place, neither participant happy about it.
We're waved on, so set off down the hill, one after the other. As tears stream from my eyes, the wind in my face, I smile and enjoy the feeling of letting go. I think about how I used to challenge myself as a kid to get from the top to the bottom of the hill without using my brakes...as I press on my brakes and bring my heart rate back to a level that's enjoyable for this stage in life. We converge at the bottom and share speeds and delight, looking up for those who should be following. After some minutes, we begin to consider if someone need go back up to check on them, no one excited at that prospect. With relief, we see them coming down. Not fast like normal, not smiling and laughing. As they pass us by without so much as a smile, I wonder how that conversation must have been back up the top. We fall into line behind them, not wanting to stop the momentum.
And then I notice something. The back tyre on the youngest's bike is going down. Fast. I call her to a stop and we all examine the damage. A thorn. It's clear we can't all keep going, so one of us now has to get back up the hill with a not-quite-as-angry child, their own bike, and the bike that can't be ridden. Oh, but hang on! It gets better. Angry child is now remorseful, a change that calls for a different response from those in the firing line. It's a relief in one way, but a tricky turn to manoeuvre all the same. It's like we've crashed at the crest of the hill, no joy in the release and freedom going down.
After a brief consultation, it is decided Dad is best equipped to deal with the hill, and we wave them goodbye while I remain deaf to the comments from the other two to call the whole thing off. I remind myself again that this was a great idea. It still is a great idea.
"THIS", I say aloud, not for the first time, "is FUN."