Learning for myself and the kids

Yesterday, after promising it to her for six months, I finally took La Serpiente to the Decathlon superstore and bought her a real bike, with pedals and brakes and everything. But without stabilisers, despite the security guard outside the shop telling me she needed them, because if there’s one thing that holds you back from developing cycling proficiency, it’s training wheels.
La Serpiente was still bleary eyed and messy from jet lag, so although she showed a few signs of excitement, we didn’t have her ride the bike yesterday. I figured that as every time she got on it, she fell over, that wasn’t the right time to start.

The two of us carried on our shopping trip, going to buy a secondhand Yamaha electronic keyboard from a couple in Tampines. The girls had been super excited by my parents’ piano before we left London, and for only $88 it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I paid for an online piano course for beginners (£10 on Udemy) and bundled bike and keyboard into a taxi, before taking a now almost catatonically tired daughter to a friends’ apartment for dinner, and then on to bed.

After a disturbed night with both kids waking up with various demands, I got the morning off to go climbing. This was my first time back at Boulder Movement since my accident, so I took it carefully. I did all the routes I could, from the easiest possible, up until I had to stop. There were a few times I scared myself by exceeding my competence, but I did every problem I tried on the first attempt. I think that means that (mostly) my ability to read a problem hasn’t got much worse. On the other hand, the best I could do was an 11, which was roughly where I was a year ago. Not sure how to measure progression on that.

With arms sore and fingers a bit more calloused and swollen, I went home and rendezvoused with my family, then went out to brunch with some friends from work and their respective girlfriends. The kids were a bit daft but not too bad, apart from Destroyer’s tantrum after she’d had a cup of ice cream, when we wouldn’t buy her another ice cream.

When we got home, with my wife still feeling rough, I was in charge of the girls. La Serpiente broke down in tears because I didn’t let her ride her bike immediately (I can’t even remember why we made that decision) and then recovered while squabbling with some other children on the climbing frame. Ah, children.

Then it was finally time for me to teach her to ride a bike. I was worried that she’d not get the hang of pedalling (a problem she’s previously had) or that she would haul on the front brake, endo the bike, land on her face and never want to ride again.

La Serpiente credits riding a tricycle in my parents’ garden with teaching her how to pedal, because she was like a duck to water.

My understanding when teaching kids to ride a bike is to not hold the bike. If you need to steady them, hold their body, because then they can feel where they’re being supported, rather than learn the dodgy belief that bicycles are self-supporting. So we did that, and despite the seat being half an inch higher then necessary, and the brake levers being quite far from the bar (a child’s reach is not so great) and the bike, like all children’s bikes, weighing half a ton, we had a successful time.

Things I had to concentrate on: making her look forwards, rather then down at the front wheel. I know if I’m not strict on that, I have an eternity of my daughter cannoning into people or lampposts to look forward to. And trying not to get angry. Instead, we had a few high fives, a couple of seconds where I could let go and let her ride without me holding her, and we did three laps of the badminton court without stopping. So, a pretty good first try.

Then we went upstairs and I tried out the online piano course, and discovered I could still remember lots about chords and modalities from my years playing bass guitar, and then the girls walloped on the keyboard to their hearts’ contents. So that also seems a success, although I think I need somebody better than me and an online video to teach La Serpiente the basics of the piano.

All in, a good day. A shame to finish it with a game of Blood Bowl where my opponent flattened me for 90 minutes while not bothering to say a word (ah, how I love wit, repartee and total silence) but it did teach me again that my positioning is bad, without many clues on how to improve. Onwards, ever onwards.

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