Well today turned unexpectedly into one of those perfect summer holiday days. It didn’t start out well – Youngest overslept. In fact, he’s been going to bed later and later every night, and getting up later each morning so by the time he goes back to school, he might be nocturnal! Anyway, the weather looked good and The Wife was working from home so we decided to go out for the day.
Spending the whole day out wasn’t ever on the cards however. By the time I’d made a picnic lunch, found three boys, found socks and shoes for them all, and then disengaged them from their activities, it was nearly midday. Never mind, we went to Caerleon and had lunch in the sunshine of the amphitheatre there. Then the two younger played hide and seek round the amphitheatre, while Eldest compared it unfavourably to the Colosseum in Rome (he went on a school trip at the beginning of July) and I explained what provincial meant.
Finally, we made it to the National Legionary Museum, down the road also in Caerleon. (If you don’t know the area, Caerleon is the centre of all things Roman in South Wales.) It being the summer holidays, they had a couple of re-enactors there, showing off cooking and weaponry plus a display of medical science in Roman times. They also had a lovely quiz or treasure hunt that took in the whole museum and gardens and occupied the younger two. Youngest was chuffed to get a golden pencil (not sold in the shop, prizes only) and a bag of Haribo! This spurred Middlest to find everything and get his prize.
Aside from that, they tried on armour, practised with wooden swords and shields, and played ancient games. I even caught the Eldest, usually a surly teenager (he’s just turned 13), dressing up as a Roman with Middlest and thoroughly enjoying himself. Middlest dressed up as Cleopatra just to reassure us as parents that we’re bringing them up as gender neutral as we can!
We then had a quick dash round the Roman Baths museum – a place I love but the boys tend to get bored with before going home.
Once we’d recovered, I got all 50s Dad and fixed a bicycle. It is Middlest’s favourite bike, even though it was a birthday present from 5 years ago so it’s tiny for him. It is a BMX so it kind of works anyway. Then, the weirdest thing happened. To explain let me digress.
My father (passed away over twenty years ago) was an avid cyclist. Before he married, he’d cycle down to the south of France for a holiday. He was a lifetime member of the Cycle Touring Club. When my Mum tidied up she found some of his medals and awards and split them between my brother and I. There were year badges back to the early sixties along with awards for doing a set number of miles in 24 hours and other such things.
So, growing up, my brother and I just naturally rode bicycles. When I went to secondary school, I rode two miles each way from the age of eleven. Cycling was just in our DNA and second nature to us. So with the older two kids, when they were four or five, we taught them to ride. I still have memories of long summer evenings holding the back of the saddle while they rode up and down the drive. (I’m 6’3″ so it’s a bit of a stretch for me to bend over and run holding a saddle!) I remember the long arguments when eldest didn’t want me to take off the stabilisers. From my patchy memory I think they both had it cracked by the time they were six.
But Youngest is different. He is super-stubborn. He doesn’t want to learn ride a bicycle. He’ll be seven in May and had shown no interest in learning to cycle whatsoever. He’s even happy to tag along on a scooter while his friends and older brothers ride bicycles. We’ve offered to teach him, we bought him a balance bike which went rusty in the garden until Middlest raided it for parts. But he wasn’t budging, not one inch.
So, there I was with this fixed up tiny bicycle and Youngest asks if he could have it to learn on, and could we buy him a bike? I check with Middlest and he’s fine with it which is weird, but he also insists it will always be his!
So, Youngest gets on the bike, with no training, Middlest holds him steady and pushes him, and he cycles off. No wobbling, no stabilisers, no-one holding him up, no falling off – he just gets on and cycles.
Admittedly he needs to learn some road sense and not to just stop in the middle of the road and drop his bike but basically he’s done. Ten minutes and he’s learnt to ride!
I still can’t get my head around it. The other two spent a few weeks at the very least on stabilisers, and certainly that long being held up and gradually gaining confidence. But he just got on and rode off. He’s not perfect, but the whole balancing, pedalling and braking thing is sussed.
After that shock, we repotted an orchid and that was our perfect day. Kids are now watching TV before we start putting ’em to bed.