As a man who is mildly obsessed with cycling in all its forms, it was natural that as soon as my eldest boy (aged 3) appeared to have mastered the basics of balance, I should buy him his first bike. He took to it with gusto.
But it wasn’t long before that first bike led to a few other firsts; first gashed knee as overconfidence got the better of him on a tarmac path, first thorn related injuries as he momentarily forgot where the brakes were and careered headlong into a bramble bush, and, with a sudden whooossshhh and a wobble to a standstill, his first puncture.
Great, I thought, what a great chance for the boy and I to get the tools out and get stuck into some proper quality father and son time. I will teach him a skill for life; how to mend a puncture.
So we get to work. The tools for the job are lined up neatly; wheel spanner, tyre levers, puncture repair kit, pump…at which point the boy takes a shine to the pump.
‘I’ll do the pumping daddy’, he says. Pump, pump, pump, pump.
‘Is it time to pump yet daddy?’. Pump, pump, pump, pump.
‘While you’re doing that, I’ll just pump the curtains…ok daddy?’. Pump, pump, pump, pump.
So, I fixed the puncture, while the boy danced around the house and pumped up the furniture, the fixtures and the fittings. Pump, pump, pump, pump. At which point he was bored with pumping, and left me to pump air into the now functioning tyre.
Of course there are sure to be many more punctures over the years, and plenty of opportunity for the boy to learn the ropes, and if nothing else he is now fully up to speed with the pump, and the pumping process. Perhaps next time, we will move onto a different item in the puncture repairers arsenal and try and master that, although, on reflection, if he gets his hand on the puncture repair kit and goes to work on the house with glue, chalk, sandpaper and little rubber patches, there may be consequences.
But sooner than we thought, the very next day in fact, and puncture number two occurred; this time, on the off-road double buggy.
‘Right son, let’s get that fixed eh?’, I say, and the boy seems keen.
I prise the tyre away from the rim and begin to search for the offending shard of glass or thorn, and a rip in the inner tube. The boy peers over my shoulder in the time-honoured fashion, absorbing the technique. With puncture located I gently prepare the rubber with sandpaper, and apply a film of glue to the tube, ready for the patch…
‘Hang on’, I think, and look up. In deep concentration I hadn’t noticed the boy wander off. I can hear him in the other room…under the dining table….pump,pump,pump,pump.
I think we’re still on the pump.