Summer 2014. It’s been a time of Wimbledon tennis, World Cup soccer and a Tour de France which set off to rapturous applause in Yorkshire.
It’s set me thinking: what sort of sports do we, as a family, do together?
My first thought was: we love to get on our bikes, and pedal off into the countryside. Ooh yes, our family is a gang of cyclists.
Back in 2011, when Austin hadn’t yet turned two, and Gwen was still a merry twinkle, we took a beautiful cycling holiday in northern Belgium.
We stayed in a pretty cottage on a farm near Bruges, complete with chickens, cows, and a battered ping-pong table to entertain ourselves with in the evenings.
Austin could barely contain his excitement at the prospect of pedalling around the Flemish cycle tracks.
We passed some afternoons bouncing through the cobbled streets of Bruges, and coasting past windmills.
But the finest were the days we spent on pretty, tree-lined paths that sang with the calls of birds.
At afternoon nap time, Austin would fall asleep on the back of D’s bike. He was so zonked from all the fresh air that we were able to lay him down in a wooded glade while we consulted the map (and enjoyed a leisurely sandwich lunch).
It was impossibly peaceful. Once, to our delight, a wild rabbit even hopped out of its hiding place, to check out the owners of those strange English accents.
But this all happened a long time ago. Trying to think of a physical activity that we all do together – right now, with our four- and two-year-old – was a trickier challenge that you might imagine.
D used to represent his county at rugby, and he takes Austin to play every Saturday morning. I, on the other hand, know nothing about the sport except that it can cause jamon-chunky thighs and a severe case of cauliflower ear.
So, no all-family action there.
D and I love to ski. We got together shortly after our first trip on the piste with each other. But our two children won’t be ready to don their mini-skis until next season, at the very earliest.
We enjoy a good ramble across hills, dales and forests. But this picture was taken on my birthday all of three years ago, when we gathered a gang of friends for a walk near Otford in Kent. Now that Austin and Gwen have outgrown their backpacks, and aren’t yet old enough to walk further than the local park, our walking trips have literally been cut short.
The closest we get to an all-family activity session is our weekly trips to the swimming pool. Austin bobs around for half an hour in a lesson with other pre-schoolers, while I dash into the other end of the pool with an armband-clad Gwen. Sadly, though, the Daddy D has to stay put in his office during all this splishy-splashy fun.
So between us all, we enjoy a fair amount of sporty activity. But, at the moment, it’s rarely together, as a foursome. I’ve decided that we’re in the tweenage years: at two and four, our children are too large to be carried around in slings and carriers. And they’re not quite old enough yet to keep up the pace set by bigger boys and girls.
But give us a few months, then Austin will have learnt to pedal his own bike, and Gwen should still be just about small enough to pop onto the back of Mum or Dad’s cycle.
Then, you’re likely to find us heading back to the Flemish flatlands, to resume our Tour de Belgium.
Active fun for all the family. We can’t wait.