Let’s be honest here – there is a bit of Competitive Dad inside all of us. And for some that’s because they had Competitive Dad outside for all their formative years, and never really worked out how to stop. Not for me, my old fella wasn’t so much hands off as completely disinterested. Which is something of a reason why I vacillate between total commitment and tired apathy with my own offspring.
But the parent I’ve never wanted to be is that one screaming from the sidelines, desperately striving to put the Victory into Vicarious. There’s always a positive stop between my frankly pervy love of mountain biking and forcing my kids to try and share something of that. Good reasons abound – they’re girls, they’re (still) not that big, MTB’ing is a tough sport, and they have variously preferred scooters, ex-board, walking and – well – anything else really when I’ve punted a spot of weekend dirt riding.
Today one of them mined the giggle-lode I so cherish, while the rest of the family had a damn fine go, before retiring slightly scared. Random (8, bonkers, untouched by reality) demonstrated a level of focus that made me wonder about alien abduction. She piloted her little 20inch Spesh Hardrock down trails the big boys ride, and showed a level of bravery making me wonder again – this time about adoption.
That’s not her in the photo. Verbal shares her Mum’s terror of hills and my oft repeated maxim that “your brakes control the speed, not the hill” failed to unlock tight muscle or deflate the scary gland. But she had a proper try even though it was apparent the only thing more scared in the entire forest was probably Carol.
Who – having narrowly avoided plunging into a dangerous ditch – rode bridges she hated, survived downhill trails that offered nothing but fear, and a truly, scary off camber bend that gives me the heebies before retiring with eldest daughter to the safety of the fireroads. I was properly proud of them for giving it a go without the hint of a whinge, and riding stuff that was clearly shitting-the-bed scary.
My kids don’t ride much and I don’t push them to do so. I’m always amazed how quickly they pick it up again, and while I was picking up my lovely old Kona having helped Random over a nasty log bridge, it became apparent she wasn’t going to stop. A cocktail of roots, dips and little drops were mastered with nothing more than youthful bravado and a happy chuckle.
I watched her ride it – having stopped talking since she clearly needed no coaching – with a lump in my throat. Where do they learn that shit? Even when she was properly gorse bushed at the trail end, she just picked herself up and got on with it. Well sort of, I had to push her home but she’s desperate to get out again. I may have found myself a sleeper 🙂
On returning home, the hound was walked by bicycle and suddenly these two wheeled transportation devices are the best thing since… the last great thing, but I’m happy with that. We then jumped our fence and went exploring in the stream at the bottom of the garden. Which was way more fun that it probably sounds.
There are times when kids are bloody difficult. Anyone who tells you different is on strong medication or telling lies. This was not one of those days.