Freewheeling

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I absolutely love this picture.

Despite the fact that you cannot clearly see that it is Thomas – that you might not even know it if I hadn’t told you – it sums up so much about him. In fact, to me, it depicts exactly what childhood – if not life itself -should be all about: freedom, fun and absolutely no worries. I can’t help but smile when I look at it.

It came about in the midst of a glorious Sunday cycle ride across the Kent countryside. We’re so fortunate to live in the heart of the so-called ‘Garden of England’, and we try to make the most of it. After a damp and drizzly Saturday, Sunday dawned with such gloriously blue sky that it was calling us to get outside (and preferably to a pub garden if at all possible!) Thomas had plenty of energy to burn, despite a busy first week at school (more on that soon) and so we elected to tackle the Cycle Network Route 12, which runs from Tonbridge to Penshurst and is mostly off road.

The slightly adapted route we planned came in at six miles with a 47m gain. Which doesn’t sound like much for an adult riding an off road bike with 21 gears. It’s a quick Sunday stroll. But when you’re only four, have a 14 inch bike that you’ve only been riding since May, it’s a bigger challenge. Although Thomas has easily tackled three miles before, I honestly expected us to make it half way and then have to hitch him up to the trail-gator (that we’ve never actually used!) and turn around for home.

That didn’t happen.

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We cycled on. We took a detour to avoid a narrow-ish fast-ish road section and got mildly lost in the Leigh flood storage area, turning a blind eye to a few “No cycles” signs and chucking the bikes over at least one gate (sssssh!). We had to give Thomas a push up some of the hills. And we we took it in turns to walk with him up the long, slow climb towards Penshurst – worth it for the views and then for the downhill that brings you in to the back of Penshurst Place stately home and the promise of a good pub and a rest.

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And Thomas did not complain once. He found the grassy section hard going and the hills that were too big for his little legs and lack of gears a nuisance. But he was loving it. We even felt confident enough to try him along the road and he was an absolute star keeping his front wheel right behind Daddy’s and his back wheel just inside my front wheel, and looking and listening for traffic like a pro, tucking himself in without a moments hesitation as cars passed us. I can’t say I ever imagined allowing my four year old to ride a bike on the road (I even prefer to avoid riding on roads myself), but Thomas surprises me in new ways every day.

It may not be the “done” thing to talk about how great your child is, but a combination of Thomas’s effort, enthusiasm and the entire accomplishment of cycling so far so well just made me so proud of him.

We were justly rewarded with a fabulous pub, delicious grub, ice cream and two pints for the grown ups.

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Then, of course, we had to do it all again in reverse.

But watching Thomas free wheel down that long hill that he’d slogged so hard to climb was pure poetry in motion.

And looking at our bikes chucked together in the hedge will never get old. It just says “family” to me.

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