There is a scene pictured in Central Park in Kramer vs Kramer when Dustin Hoffman teaches his screen son to ride a bike. The child wobbles initially while his dad supports him. He eventually finds his balance and rides off to his dad’s delight. Moments in your child’s journey you do not want to miss. Such a moment is not too far off for Lakshmi as I help her grapple with the bike’s pedals. Thomas’s first bike is a tad too heavy for her and she has the impression that her legs are not strong enough to push it forward. Teaching children such a skill is their parent’s job isn’t it? I try to hint, but they’ve both conveniently left it to me. With the bike centres not offering lessons at the moment, I turn to Google for help. Forty five minutes they say, that’s all it takes to teach your child to ride a bike. This year the weather has been muted. Unlike the previous spring and summer months the sun seems to have lost its mojo along with the general populace. We wait for a dry spell to test the forty five minute hypothesis.
Lakshmi needs to give up her balancing bike, so that Lavinia can practice on it and as Spring turns into Summer the days are ticking on. Lavinia, with Lakshmi’s hand me down helmet and bike, practices her riding skills. She is the outdoorsy one who watches and learns. She doesn’t need mollycoddling like Lakshmi does. Her joy only too evident when she shows Lakshmi how to do acrobatic jumps into the gym swimming pool. ‘How does she do that?, laments Lakshmi as she gingerly does a tiptoe slide into the pool with me holding on to both hands firmly.
With the Google technique it doesn’t take long before Lakshmi finds her balance on the bike. Once she starts peddling she’s on a roll and I hold on to her shirt top gently to provide support. The rain arrives but the children want to carry one. ‘Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day’, they both call out and the heavens listen. Normally the time spent on the bike is 5-10 minutes tops before Lakshmi puts it away. Today she wants to carry on. It is getting late and I need to drop them back at their house.
Last weekend as I drove them back to their home I asked the children if they had a good time. The answer was not the one I was expecting. ‘No, it was boring and it is boring because you shouted’, came back the reply. I wasn’t the one who shouted. It was a woman at the gym who told them off as they excitedly ran around and bumped into her, while I was trying to unload the swim bag into the locker. The other gym users looked on startled as she continued her rant. Probably a woman with no children or someone who believes in the old adage that children must only be seen and not heard. Alcira tells me later that she never takes her children swimming on her own and they are older than the two I’m entrusted with. Managing two excited children who are having fun is not an easy task. There is a lot of talk of ‘black lives matter’ and racism and yet I strongly feel that she wouldn’t have raised her voice at a white or black kid. People are on edge and it is understandable but she could have said it in a better way. The children seemed unfazed and didn’t let the incident upset them.
So why was Lakshmi upset with me. Further questioning revealed that it was from an incident over a year ago. We have had minor disagreements but that was the only time I lost my rag. It was not one of my finest moments. A day when Lakshmi stretched my patience a little bit too far. It seems that she has forgiven me for the incident but is not willing to forget. They say that for each word you say to upset someone it takes nine good ones or thereabouts to right a wrong. ‘Isn’t that the only one time in your five years that I have told you off badly?’, I ask Lakshmi, but the nine to one rule does not apply to her it seems. I refuse to feel guilty about the incident and brush it aside. I did explain to her that day why I got upset. Consuming oneself with guilt for being human is not something I want to wallow in. ‘Guilt’, a word I do not want to add to her vocabulary yet. At school she’s learning big words as part of her phonetics class. ‘Conspire’ was one such word. Her friend got it but she didn’t, she tells me. She is still making up words, words with long explanations. By the time I sit down to write them I’ve forgotten these newly created words. I think if I start a book on Lakshmi’s dictionary, one day we will end up with a hefty collection.
On the way back home this time, I repeat the question. ‘Did you have a good time?’ ‘Only when we were playing outside’, Lakshmi replies, refusing to give in. A concession for helping her with her bike. It looks like the road to recovery is going to be a very very long one indeed.