Here's the news: two weeks ago Lulu learnt to ride a bike. It's a milestone in any child's life and ranks alongside first words, first steps and learning to read as one of the key achievements of childhood.
It's been a bit of a long haul to be honest. Both Helen and I use bikes to get about all the time. But Lulu, despite showing early promise, has been a reluctant cyclist.
She started well. We got her a balance bike when she was two. It was a wooden two-wheeled affair that looked like a it had been bike-jacked from a midget Victorian gentleman flower-seller. She loved her balance bike and would race off on it lifting both feet off the ground to coast on two wheels down startlingly steep hills.
When she was three we bought her a proper bike. The advice was, given her excellent use of the balance bike, to not bother with stabilisers because she'd not want or need them.
People who say things like this don't have children. Well, they don't have my children anyway. Lulu is susceptible to peer pressure and at the time time of the arrival of her lovely new pink bike she had a best friend who lived a few doors down who did have stabilisers. So she insisted on having them too.
Of course the friend did away with hers about 6 weeks later whilst Lulu found the weird jolting, rocking experience delivered by stabilisers utterly terrifying and became convinced that if she stopped using them she would FALL OFF. Which, clearly, would hurt.
The upshot was that from the age of three to the age of seven she could barely sit on a bike without weeping fearfully, mourning in advance all the skin that she would scrape off when I allowed the bike to VICIOUSLY THROW HER TO THE TARMAC.
We came to the stage where she would set up a lose/lose conversation that went along these lines:
She: (tearfully) Everyone in my class at school can ride a bike except me!
Me: (Really gently) Well why don't you learn? I'll help you.
She: (appalled and angry) NO! I HATE MY BIKE!! BIKES ARE STUPID!!
She: everyone in my class can ride a bike except me....
At which point I would beat myself insensible with a track pump.
Finally Helen took it upon herself to teach her. In a display of patience that convinced me that she must have been self medicating with powerful tranquillisers she cajoled and coaxed our daughter back into the saddle. And eventually, a little at a time she managed to get Lulu to cycle a few yards by herself.
I joined in and we got her to cycle between the two of us steadily increasing the distance.
We made no fuss about it and didn't scold when the session might last only a few minutes.
Then, one day, I suggested that we took the bike to the park. She agreed but insisted that I had to wheel it all the way there. We arrived and she managed a few small trips between Helen and me as before.
"Why don't you try going a bit further," I said. "I'll run alongside you just in case."
So I started off holding onto the back of her seat for a few yards and then I let go. I ran alongside her. "You're doing it," I told her, "You're doing really well."
She rode for 10 seconds. 15 and then 20 seconds. And then after half a minute she put the brakes on, coasted gracefully to a halt, dismounted, let the bike fall to the floor.
"That was really weird," she declared firmly. "I am NOT doing THAT again."
She has not ridden since.