This is a particularly hard post to write, and as I’ve edited it, I have found it very hard to read. I apologise in advance if you find this offensive, but please can you read it to the end? I think I am a good parent, but even good parents mess up some times.
As you will recall Boy-Boy has had chicken pox over the past week, and with the school holidays upon us, this couldn’t have happened at a better time(please excuse the sarcasm). Due to his itchy skin he has not been sleeping well, and as a result neither have Mrs L. and I. One day last week Mrs L. ended up sleeping with Boy-Boy and received a mid slumber head-butt for her troubles. Over breakfast I pointed out to her that her application of mascara was perhaps a touch too liberal, and in any case wasn’t it supposed to go on her lashes and not under her eyes? She gave me a withering look and explained to me what had happened.
As the day progressed though, the thought occurred to me; “with my wife sporting a rather spectacular shiner, are people going to assume that I am somehow to blame?”. Had anyone reached the conclusion that I had been responsible, they would be quite wrong. I am very definitely not the kind of man who would give his wife a black eye!
I’m sure you remember from last week that before Boy-Boy had fallen ill we had been planning a much needed holiday, staying with my sister, but as she couldn’t recall having had chicken pox, with very heavy hearts we cancelled the trip. We were all really disappointed, especially Fraboo, who had been looking forward to spending some time with her Auntie away from home.
Mrs L. and I decided that rather than mope around for a week, we would take some day trips to places in our home city, and do some exciting activities with the kids. On the afternoon in question, after a pretty dismal morning which had put me in a less than ideal frame of mind, we decided that we would take them to a nearby park and let them ride their bikes.
Fraboo has never really liked her bike, and I’m at a loss to explain why. It is painted in all the right colours, and has streamers on it. I would have thought that it would be a little girl’s dream ride. And perhaps it is, just not our little girl. She stubbornly refuses to ride it. But I decided that this school holidays she was going to learn.
Boy-Boy took to riding his bike like a duck to water, but Fraboo has always been a bit more cautious, and seems a little more aware of potential dangers (real and imagined) than her younger sibling. I think I mentioned that she is also incredibly stubborn. These things combined, make for a less than productive scenario. But I have discovered the real reason that she won’t ride her bike, and disappointingly, that reason is me!
You may have gathered that when we went out, I was in a pretty filthy mood. Before we’d even started our walk, Fraboo had committed an act of (in my opinion at the time) intolerable insolence, and so she was put into time out. As Boy-Boy and Mrs L. disappeared into the sunset leaving me figuratively and literally, holding the baby (Fraboo and Jojo respectively), I tried to sort the situation out.
I tried to have a firm word with Fraboo, encouraging but authoritarian, but she was not going to play. This was an unanticipated turn of events so I took the example given to me by so many English tourists, and spoke loudly and slowly.
I tried to push her on her bike and helping her balance, but when you are trying to help a six year old balance , and make sure that the baby stroller doesn’t roll down the river bank and into the drink, you really are onto a hiding for nothing. I became more and more exasperated. Every tactic I used she parried with her increasingly miserable face. She wasn’t even interested in learning, steadfastly refusing to take on board any suggestion I made. I can’t remember if I mentioned how stubborn she is.
In the end, to my great shame, and enormous embarrassment, I lost the plot, in rather spectacular style. While telling Fraboo how she-wasn’t-even-trying-and-why-did-we-even-bother-bringing-her-to-the-park-on-this-lovely-day-because-it wasn’t-for-my-benefit-etc-etc, I picked up her bike and tried to throw it away. As I tried to throw it, it became apparent that the bike weighed only slightly less than a Sherman Tank, and when I did let fly it dropped an embarrassingly short distance away. This was such an affront to my manliness that it made me even crosser (that I am such a puny weakling), yet in that same moment I was given the insight to see how much of an idiot I was being.
In my rage I had completely forgotten that there were other people in the park, looking at me with equal parts revulsion and amusement. Their stares hardened though, when Mrs L. with her bruised face, returned on her scooter.
Fraboo, was by now, more than miserable, she was beside herself. I’m certain that she didn’t like being told off, but I think that she was more upset that she had let me down.
This is unforgivable! My job as a parent is to champion my children, to encourage them, and when they fall, to help them back up not to knock them down.
I took Boy-Boy off on his bike, while Mrs L. counselled Fraboo and after some considerable introspection, I realised then that I would have to break what in my family had always seemed like a golden rule; “Parent’s don’t have to apologise”. I spoke with Fraboo and told her how sorry I was and that I should never ever have behaved like that. If she had ignored me and my apology, to me that would have been acceptable, but she forgave me, and hugged me and told me it was ok.
This will never ever happen again, and Fraboo, I really am so, so sorry. You are kind, loving and forgiving, and sometimes it will do me good to remember that you are only six years old.