During the summer holidays we made a day trip to Ashbourne, which turned out to be quite disappointing, so we took ourselves off to nearby Carsington Water, where, once-upon-a-time, we had taken Big Brother and Big Sister cycling when they were very small. They rode in one of those tent-like trailers that attach to the seat-post of an adult’s bike.
Going back to Carsington, and down memory lane, made us think it might be fun to go cycling again. I was sure Freddie would enjoy it if he were able to participate somehow. An infant seat (the sort that sits on the frame) seemed the most practical thing under the circumstances, but the yong lady manning the cycle hire centre immediately scuppered that notion. Small as he is, she explained, Freddie is slightly too heavy for an infant seat, and they couldn’t legally hire one out to us. A trailer wasn’t really an option — it was very likely that he would try to unbuckle himself and climb out, especially sonce he wouldn’t be getting much out the experience stuck in a pod on his lonesome, especially since he wouldn’t be getting much out of the experience stuck in a pod on his lonesome, with no one to explain what was happening and why. He might get distressed.
She suggested a tag-a-long, but Freddie has never ridden a bike yet, and I doubted that he would be able to balance himself safely on the seat, and again, might try to get off — especially if he felt unsafe.
It had been a nice idea, but clearly cycling with Freddie was not goint tobe possible, not yet. Another disappointment in an already downbeat day. But just as we were turning to leave, the girl said: ‘Wait a minute. We do have a Weehoo, if that would be suitable. It’s out at the moment, though; we’ve only got one of them’.
She described the Weehoo to us, and it sounded perfect, so we booked it for the following Saturday.
The Weehoo is a pedal bicycle trailer that attaches to the seat-post of an adult’s bike, like a conventional bike trailer, or a tag-a-long, but, unlike a tag-a-long, it has a supportive seat with a backrest and three-point harness, and handles to hold onto. It engages children in pedalling and follows precisely in the path of the tow cycle. It is adjustable for most children aged 2-9, and will accomodate kids from 38″ to 52″ tall, and weighing up to 75lbs.
Now, this bl;og is not just about Down’s syndrome. It is about Down’s Syndrome and its effect on family life. Our lives do not revolve solely around the fact that Freddie has Down’s. “Normal” everyday life continues regardless, relentlessly. And “family life” is the sum total of the combined interactions of several disparate individuals who live in close physical, emotional and logistical proximity to one another. So, to tell you about that day I’m going to hand you over to my other blog Pink is the new Grey (pinkisthenewgrey.wordpress.com), which largely concerns itself with the trials and triumphs of being “a woman of a certain age”:
Saturday 5th September
Today, for the first time in twenty-two years, I managed to impress the father of my children. I put it down to the Bodyform Effect.
We were planning to hire bicycles and go for a spin at Carsington Water, in Derbyshire. We did the same once, about fifteen years ago, when our older children were small. The memory of it shines out of the murky, cobwebbed cellar of my mind as a small beacon of post-parenthood fun, so I insisted we try it again with The Little One. We’d had to book in advance because we needed to make sure that the Weehoo would be available for him.
Of course it was a Bad Idea. I knew that. This would be only the second single occasion in the last thirty-five years that I had been anywhere near a bike, and now I’m pushing fifty.
And I was on my period (yes, I still have them). I woke up to find that Mother Nature had decided to foist herself on me a few days early, and the cupboard was still bare after her last visit. I’m usually happy to use supermarket own brands, but today’s emergency trip to the corner shop bought me the privilege of paying twice as much for half as many, because Bodyform is the only brand they stock.
But thank goodness for that. Because without Bodyform I would never have been able to just hop on that bike (after all these years) and cycle eight miles (yes, EIGHT MILES) round a lake, all whilst on the rag and lugging around fifty around fifty years worth of wrinkles, flab, and threadbare cartilage.
Honestly, I really did do that. Once I’d persuaded the boy in the cycle hire centre to give me the right size machine – it’s really no good insisting I have an adult’s bike because I am an adult when I’m only the same height as most 11/12 –year-old girls.
The upside of being a small, creaky cyclist on a small, squeaky bike if that there was no option but to fix the Weehoo to Daddy’s bigger, more expertly-handled cycle. I could hear The Little One putting him through his paces, urging him to slow down on the downhills, and go fast on the uphills. O.K – so I dismounted and pushed up the steepest hills (but I was far from the only one doing so). And in spite of that I think that Daddy was seriously impressed with how well I did (I was seriously impressed with myself. I would have considered just wobbling a few yards without falling off an achievement). Of course, he insisted that the reason he was so much more out of breath than me was because he had had to pedal twice the distance to make up for the fact that The Little One was pedalling backwards most of the way.
Afterwards we collapsed into the restaurant in a heap of slovenly parenting – giving the Little One my phone to play with while we downed half-a-pint of Pepsi each, followed by a large coffee. The Little One rejected his chicken fillet goujons on the grounds that he couldn’t possibly be expected to chew after all that exercise, but he happily sucked the fluffy innards out of his chips, after first dabbling them in bean juice.
Not bad, eh, for an old bird?
So, next time my doctor asks me: ‘do you still have periods, Mrs. F?’, instead of mourning the demise of the youth-and-femininity-defining question: ‘could you be pregnant?’, I will simply smile to myself and say: ‘yes, I do still cycle.’
Thank you for bearing with me through that long post.