Another day, another attempt at a family bike ride.
"I'm sitting this one out", says our son, the middle child. "You guys go ahead."
"Um, no, we are all going bud. You need sneakers, sunscreen..."
"I said...I AM NOT COMING. And you can't make me."
I agree with this. I can't physically make him pedal a bike against his will. But having gone through this same routine the day before with his younger sister, I feel like I'm in good shape to take this on. I do wonder, however, just what is going on around here. Since when are bike rides so awful? And didn't he see who won this duel yesterday?
Readying to leave the house, I see him glaring at me, but there's a hint of defeat about him that makes me think he's running out of fight already. Ever hopeful, I once again remind him we are leaving.
"I said," he says, "I'm NOT COMING. And that's final."
"I'd like you to come", I say in a hopeful tone, trying to take with a surprise kind play.
"No thanks", he mutters fiercely, turning his head away.
"Okay", I sigh, "but I hope it's worth the consequences...". I head out the door confident and calm, leaving it ajar.
A tormented cry escapes him, and among some low-voice muttering I can hear his footsteps coming to the door. I remind him about sneakers, over my shoulder as I descend the front stairs, "...and sunscreen!". He is making a lot of unhappy noises, though they are alongside sounds that tell me he is complying.
Soon enough, we are off. Down the driveway (just like yesterday) with one child unhappy and making noise about it (just like yesterday). We get to the end of the road before I realise my tyre is flat (also happened yesterday), so the adults head home to pump it up while the kids play about in the trees. On our return they leap down from balancing and climbing, looking our way.
"How'd it go, Mum?", asks our son, in his once-again cheerful tone. He may fall hard, but he bounces back well.
"All good, buddy. We're good to go. And hey, good to have you back!"
And so we are off again, along the tree-lined street that leads to the reserve path that runs alongside the horse paddock, around to the big hill. I feel myself relax a little, a little enjoyment now creeping into my bones. He is in the lead, now asking to stop at the jumps, when I am stopped in my tracks...literally. Something pops underneath me. There's a visible puff from the side of my tyre as the bike comes to a very sudden and definite stop, almost flipping me over the front handlebars. I hear my daughter cry out behind me, the explosion having been visible from behind.
And so, moments later, I am walking a crippled bicycle home alone while the family continues on, speeding down the hill in glee. Oh well, I think to myself, third time is a charm, right? I wonder if our third child will take the path of least resistance...