TIMES ARE CHANGING.
Not so very long ago, we could go on holiday as a family and all three children would wholeheartedly join in the family fun on offer. Every suggestion was met with enthusiasm and a joyful, untainted childish sense of adventure.
A much anticipated weekend to a Gold Coast beachfront resort reminded me we were slowly entering a new era – one where family outings were not necessarily greeted with hoots of unabated joy. A phase where, dare I say it, we were no longer cool, fun parents but the source of acute embarrassment.
The sad part of the tale is that we were both blissfully unaware our status had changed at all.
We would have remained innocently unaware of our shortcomings until we innocently suggested a family cycle on this fine weekend away. Surely it was a pleasant, bonding activity to pass a perfect Spring afternoon? All three children seemed quite keen on the idea and even the eldest, at 14, seemed to agree it would be a pleasant ride following the winding broadwalk with its spectacular views of azure blue seas and a cloudless Queensland sky.
The first hint of all not being Swiss family Robinson came while selecting bikes. Those on offer were clearly vintage with their wide Harley-type handle-bars, comfortable seats and mud guards the way they used to make them – solid. There were no gears to worry about as these babies were built for comfort, not speed. So far, no complaints. Then my teenaged son announced, rather diplomatically and without much fanfare that he suddenly preferred the idea of jogging next to the family instead of actually cycling. He had obviously perused the old fashioned cycles on offer, and perhaps glanced at the helmets that were admittedly more suited to skydiving than a sedate beachfront ride, and decided to opt out, fast. The vision of a sweet little family of five pedalling on cloned bikes was too much for this teen to bear.
My 12-year-old daughter silently accepted her pink flowery vintage bike but insisted she didn’t need a helmet. No helmet, no ride, insisted her dad. So she reluctantly donned helmet.
The youngest did what every nine year old would do – chose a bike, put on his helmet and set off with gusto.
I was quite delighted with my baby blue bicycle – all that was missing was a front basket and it would have been quite perfect.
We didn’t get far before my little family bonding illusion was well and truly crushed. After cycling past the first group of teenagers enjoying a Saturday afternoon barbeque at a picnic table alongside the cycle track, I looked back to see my daughter had stopped dead, helmet removed. She refused to budge. “They were laughing at me!” she hissed when I approached. “I can’t ride this bike, I’m going back,” she insisted.
After trying the stern, ‘don’t be silly no-one’s looking at you’ approach; I vainly attempted appealing to her fashion sense. Did she know that these bikes were so old they were now back in fashion? Didn’t she notice all the cool young surfers riding their bikes along the shore on exactly the same vintage? My cajoling simply made her more determined than ever not to move.
Refusing to be daunted, I opted for pure, unadulterated bribery: If she wanted dinner and a movie that night, she had better get her butt back on her bike and cycle or she would spend the night alone at the resort while we enjoyed a family dinner.
With all the resolve she could muster, my daughter finally took me seriously and resumed her torturous journey. Then I looked behind me again and discovered she was cycling, yes, but way off the beaten track – riding so close to the beach and away from her precious family she may have tried wave cycling instead.
Every time she passed another group of teens, she tucked her head to the side so her long hair would cover face and make it suitably invisible. Where was my bold, unselfconscious daughter? I wanted her back!
She endured the last kilometre or so with sullen expression and tilted head. This was not a fun family outing, it was an endurance test.
“Maybe this is one of those memories that will scar her for life,” my husband suggested as we neared the end of the cycle.
I hoped not. We returned the bikes and assessed the emotional damage just in case.
“It wasn’t just the bike, it was the stupid helmet – I’m wearing a dress with a home-boy helmet, I look ridiculous!” explained a repentant 12-year-old.
How silly of me not to realise.