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.