It's all downhill!
There was much discussion about the youngest family member coming along on this ride prior to our setting off, with two distinct teams emerging. On one side my brothers, who advocated loudly and with forceful clarity that the youngest one should not come along. The opposition to them was small but very powerful, being parents who would have to manage the youngest ones however things turned out. I was on this team, but far from sure about bringing my youngest along...yet there we were, setting out on mountain bikes through the Thredbo Valley, all kids along for the ride.
As we started out, the path that was supposedly all downhill was winding precariously up along the edge of a hillside, the precipice revealing stunning views and much sharp drawing-in of breath as the youngest teetered along on her bike. "It must just be this beginning part that's tricky, the lovely gentle downhill slope must start around this next bend", I kept telling myself as we struggled along the up-and-down, windy, root-pocked track. Or maybe the next bend? No. Now the path is covered in loose rock, scattered with large outcrops that were challenging for me to get over, let alone the sweet seven-year-old youngest. It was as her bike slid on one such rock, seeing her teeter and put her feet down (thankfully on the inside edge of the track) that the battle between my inner kindergarten teacher and somewhat incredulous mother began.
The incredulous feelings came as I recalled the guy who rented a bike to the youngest, commenting that she'd be fine, "the track just follows along the river, all downhill". I recalled other conversations when I voiced concern and was placated repeatedly about the state of the trail, and told how beneficial it would be for the youngest to challenge herself and do the ride. Those reassuring people were way ahead with the rest of the extended family, revelling in the company, the views and the ride. The kindergarten teacher within me continued to offer supportive comments and praise for each time she had to get off to walk up another hill, or not fall over the edge, trying to keep her momentum up already, knowing we were less than 1km into a 10km ride. I pulled up beside her, crammed alongside on the sparse path, thinking to give her a little push to get started again when at that moment she slipped, whacking her head into my handlebars and falling down under my now stopped bike, twisting onto her side, losing a shoe and her shit all at once. The sweet seven-year-old trying so hard to keep trying, keep positive, keep going was gone. For the next hour she would battle to get back to sweet, but there's only so much anyone can take. After all, as she said at one point, "you're not the one who cracked their head almost open, are you Mum?"
There were expressions of exasperation, times for tears, moments of triumph and plenty of straight out bribery with lollies. We climbed many more hills, dodged most of the roots and rocks that could bring us down, and slowly found a way to get to where we were going. When we made it to our destination, there were the rest of the family, who had been waiting over an hour for us, standing to cheer and clap us in. My bitterness was washed away as I realised she had done it, something truly difficult, and could indeed feel immensely proud. She may never get on a bike again, though.