Today has been an outdoor kind of day - in other words, so bright that if we'd stayed in, I'd have had to notice the film of dust on everything, and ended up wasting the day in housework.
The children can't get in the garden because of the extension in progress. It's going to become more and more of a nuisance as Spring finds a toe-hold, I think. Certainly it's not so much fun having the boys clambering all over the sofas and wrestling on the front room rug. We need more room......oh, that's right, that's what the extension is for. Hope it's done soon!
We ended up at the park on bikes, with my Super-Mum and Super-Dad. We're working on getting the six-year old weaned off stabilisers, quite a bit later than most of the children in her class. The four-year old, having slightly better balance already, is having a go, too.
By a series of slightly mis-timed bike purchases, we have two bikes; a tiny pink one for 2-4 year olds, and then the four-year old boy had a real boys' bike for his fourth birthday. He is still fighting the pull of gravity, though, and is shorter than average, so it's a touch big for him yet. It's perfect for the six-year old though. So we usually swap; neither of them minds, and they swap backwards and forwards quite happily.
Until today, that is. By the time we made it to the park, Bean was in tears, then subsided into a brooding sulk, because she wanted to be on the pink bike. The whinges are a highly contagious condition, and the four year old began the second I took the stabilisers off the tiny bike for him to have a ride. He whined and grumbled and wobbled.
"He did better than this on Wednesday," Mum said, perplexed, "He rode for an hour and he was getting pretty good."
"But I want MY bike!" he said.
I put the stabilisers back on, and retrieved Bean from where she was glowering behind a tree. Then we had to find where she had abandoned the boys' bike, and strip it of its stabilisers. Luckily, her bad mood lifted; she really tried to ride the bike. She kept leaning towards me though; I may be permanently hunch-backed now. She wobbled this way and that, and clipped my ankles several times. I hung grimly onto her shoulders, which someone assured me is the best way to steady them while they learn. At first, she was utterly hopeless, though I didn't tell her so.
"I can't do it! I can't!" she said. You could hear the frustration in her voice. She was so annoyed with herself.
"It doesn't matter," I said, "That's what practise is for. We'll get there, and I'm here to help."
"I'm trying!" she said, "I keep trying to sit up, but it still wobbles! And I can't steer when I'm trying to balance. I can't do everything at once."
Then, suddenly, she did, just for a few seconds. On the way back, she got some speed up; I had to jog alongside her, and she balanced for longer. She started to laugh.
"I'm doing it! I'm doing it!"
"You are!" (It was hard to be enthusiastic, jogging while bent in half at the waist. I'm sure there should be some health and safety rule against it. But I was proud, too).
I could tell she was tired; we left it at that, a small taste of success, an inkling of what riding a bike will be like, one day. Soon.
I thought of the parallels with my writing; the support you need till you build confidence; the frustration that you can't achieve what you want; how easy it would be to give up; the difficulty in juggling plot, pace, characters, good writing....there are lessons everywhere, if you look for them.
We put the stabilisers back on the boys' bike.
"Right," I said, "You can swap now. Have your pink one, Bean, and let your brother have his."
They climbed on their respective bikes, Bean hunched like a chimp over the handlebars, the four-year old looking as though he were astride a penny-farthing, cycling through the sky. They went round a corner, stopped and put their heads together. They slid off their bikes and climbed on each other's.
"What's going on?"
"My bike's a bit too small for me," Bean said, "So we thought we'd swap."
Important reminder: you learn best through experience, not by having things explained to you...