Monthly Archives: July 2014

Ready, steady, ride…

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I wonder what your very first memory is. Various moments of my early life are there in my mind, albeit rather vaguely: I remember visiting Mrs Bell’s sweet shop at the end of our road when I was a toddler, and shouting “bananas!” really loudly with my grandmother when we walked under the railway bridge on the way to the park.  But the one, single moment that really sticks out is the day we moved house, when I was three, to the place where my parents have now lived for nearly 30 years.

It was there that I grew up, climbing the apple tree, playing football (very badly) and exploring in the woods. And it was just outside that house that I vividly remember learning to ride my bike without stabilisers. I can recall the smell, the sights, the reassuring presence of my dad by my side, as if it were yesterday. There he was, pretending to hold the back of the saddle until that moment when I realised that, yes, I was indeed riding on my own – all the way to the gate at the bottom of the lane.

This week, my children are staying with my mum and dad, while my wife and I are at opposite ends of the country. Today, in the very same summer sunshine that accompanied my first ever bike ride in 1988, and with the same man by his side, my little boy also rode free for the first time.

Somehow, nearly 30 years have passed since my dad jogged by my side, encouraging me with his enthusiastic words – and ensuring I didn’t career head-first into a hedge. He’s now speaking those same words of encouragement to his grandson, and my son will no doubt grow up with this memory etched firmly on his mind, just like his dad did.

Looking at my boy beaming with pride as he realises what he’s achieved, it’s only natural to feel that our kids really do grow up too fast. But sometimes, it also feels like we do, too.

The passage of time…

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“You do realise there are only 21 weeks until we start playing Christmas carols on the radio, don’t you?” So said a colleague of mine other day, much to the consternation of everyone else in the office.

The passage of time is something I’ve been reflecting on recently: next week, I’ll have been working at my company for ten years – and shortly after, it’s my ninth wedding anniversary (mental note to self: your dad’s decision to buy your mum a bumper roll of cling film as a gift is not an example that should ever be followed). But the thing that’s really made me feel old is the fact that tomorrow, my son celebrates his sixth birthday.

Exactly six years ago to the minute, my wife and I were sitting in our little one-bedroomed flat, trying to decide whether or not to go into hospital again. Mrs J had already been in labour for about twelve hours; we’d made a trip to St. George’s in Tooting once already but instead of being told to push, my wife was instructed simply to go back home and have a bath. Nearly 24 hours after that, our son finally arrived into the world; a tiny, fragile, beautiful little baby whose existence changed the shape of our family forever.

Fast forward on to today, and this little bundle of vulnerability has become a football-playing, practical joke-making, inquisitive boy, who recently wrote on his school report that his target for next year is “to persevere with difficult things a bit more” (I don’t think I could even spell persevere correctly until I was doing my GCSEs). My son is closer to being in double figures than he is to the day of his birth – and, without wanting to wish his childhood away, I’d imagine his teenage years will be here quicker than you can say “it’s SO unfair, Dad” and slam the door behind you in a fit of misunderstood angst.

I hope I get the privilege of seeing my boy celebrate a great many more birthdays. But no matter how old he gets, there’ll always be a part of me that still thinks of him as that 8-pounds-and-12-ounces new creation, blinking at his first experience of daylight and calmly lying on his mum’s chest, starting to take stock of the world around him.

Happy birthday, lad. You’re going to have a great time being six, and I’m going to keep on having even more fun being your dad. Just don’t get any older too quickly.