I still remember watching them take their first steps. Oh, god! I sound like a grandma – or at least someone whose daughters are on the verge of getting married or leaving home. Corny does not start to do this justice.
However – I do still remember watching them take their first steps. I remember the completely unexpected and thoroughly unjustified sense of pride I felt – as though I had done anything at all in getting them to that milestone. As though – all being normal – they would not have got there sooner or later on their own without any help from anyone.
And what made me think of all that, you might wonder. Well, it’s a long story. Or at least – it might not have been, but when I’m telling it, it’s always a long story.
When our girls turned two, their first birthday at home, we got them a pink-and-purple Barbie tricycle which they still have and they still ride.
When they turned three, we got them bicycles. They had those supporting side wheels, though, so they were sort of quadricycles, but that’s what you get these days. For some months, they rode them regularly. Then, life changed, we moved, and cycling, even if it was quadricycling, became irregular.
Then, one of the cycles developed a problem – the tyre wouldn’t hold air. Tara was willing to do time-sharing on her cycle, but Mrini wanted to ride on her own cycle. So cycling came to a complete halt until we could find the time and energy to take the cycle to the original cycle shop and have it serviced and fixed. By the time we did that – you know what? Obviously, the other cycle developed a problem.
Time passed. More time passed. A heck of a long time passed. Amit bought a cycle. I bought a cycle. On one memorable occasion, Amit and I went out cycling together (very slowly) and made the kids walk/trot/run alongside. We got some very hard stares from passersby that time. (The kids enjoyed it, though – but it was tedious for us, having to cycle that slowly.)
Finally one day, everything fell in place and we had their cycles fixed and functional at the same time. The cycle shop had also removed the training wheels and the kids now had to learn to balance on a genuine bicycle. For several weeks, we took them out fairly regularly, holding their cycles from the back and running along while they tried to learn the trick.
Then one day a neighborhood friend brought out his bicycle (quadricycle, though he’s their age and bigger than them) and so, of course, they had to take out theirs as well. Amit was busy so it was just me, but they wouldn’t wait and they couldn’t be stopped. I strapped their helmets on and they were off! I had Mrini’s cycle from the back and I let go and she went pedalling merrily down the road passing three houses before she managed to stop – legs splayed wide in the typical childhood style.
From that point, it took three sessions. The third session was yesterday. Now, they both have acquired the knack of starting by pushing off from a standstill, without needing to be held. They usually stop by crashing into something, but have managed to avoid any serious damage to themselves or the environment so far (barring a tiny scratch on the neighbors’ new car). It’s not that they don’t know how to use the brakes… I think they’re just so thrilled to be actually cycling like big kids, they don’t want to stop. Their steering is rather unpredictable right now – they change lanes faster than a Formula One driver – but I suppose they will figure it out soon enough. They were trying U-turns yesterday, but without much success.
And yet – the day that we all four go out cycling together is now just around the corner!
When I see them weaving their way across the road, pedaling furiously, grinning – yeah, I feel just like I did when they learnt to walk. This time, I did play a role in it, at least to some extent. And this time, it’s not something that they would have learnt anyway – it’s quite possible to grow up without learning to ride a bike (however sad that might be). So at least my role in this little achievement is not completely insignificant. All the same, it’s nothing in proportion to the sense of pride and achievement I feel.
And that’s partly what being a parent is about, I suppose. To feel pride in another person’s achievement even when your contribution has been marginal or mainly in the form of encouragement. There’s nothing quite like it.